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Monitoring of common breeding birds

Population trends among common breeding bird species in Switzerland

Through the monitoring of common breeding birds (MHB), we keep an eye on population development and any changes in the range of common breeding bird species. The populations of breeding birds have been surveyed annually since 1999 on 267 representative kilometre squares distributed throughout Switzerland. This allows population trends of more than 70 common and widespread bird species to be identified.

Domain Research
Unit Monitoring
Topic Population Development
Habitat farmland, rocky terrain, wetlands, rivers & streams, semi-open farmland, alpine habitats, wasteland, settlements, forest, meadows and pastures
Project start 1999
Project status ongoing
Project management Roman Bühler
Project region Switzerland


Project objectives

A central goal of the Swiss Ornithological Institute is to be able to make reliable statements about the population development of every bird species that breeds regularly in our country. Both short-term fluctuations and longer-term developments are of interest. The MHB covers a third of those species that are widespread and common. Blackbird, thrush, finch and starling – these species in particular tend to be overlooked. They make up the main mass of breeding birds, and they are well monitored thanks to the MHB.


The MHB network consists of 267 kilometre squares distributed throughout the entire country at altitudes of up to around 2,500 m above sea level. These are mapped annually on three circuits (on two above the tree line) along predefined routes, with experienced field ornithologists who are familiar with bird calls recording all contacts with breeding birds. They then digitise these observations and a programme eliminates the territories. This gives us a minimum number of territories for each square and species for the year in question.


The MHB is a success story. Since 2001, it has worked closely with Biodiversity Monitoring Switzerland (BDM). The method is also used in various cantons for cantonal BDM projects and for monitoring DDPS sites. Furthermore, it provided the standard for the Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas 2013-2016. The data obtained through the MHB is a goldmine for statisticians. Numerous analyses carried out by Marc Kéry and colleagues have found their way into internationally renowned journals, university courses and textbooks.


The population trends for each common species can be found in the bird database. Combined into guilds, they form the SBI® – the Swiss Bird Index.

Project partner(s)



Other resources
internal link
State of Birds
internal link
Breeding bird index
Downloads (in German)
Monitoring link


We monitor the distribution and populations of birds throughout the country.

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