Historical Atlas of Breeding Birds

    A good knowledge of the historical distribution and abundance is an important basis for assessing the current status of birds in Switzerland. Many species had suffered massive declines before the first comprehensive overview, the first breeding bird atlas (1972–1976), was compiled, as intensification of land use increased in the 1950s or even earlier. The project "Historical Atlas of Breeding Birds" aims at documenting the situation of birds in the 1950s.


    1. Assessing changes in distribution of breeding birds.
    2. Raising awareness among politicians, government agencies and the public.
    3. Basis for influencing agricultural policies.
    4. Documentation as a breeding bird atlas 1950s with maps comparing species distributions with the two atlases 1972–1976 and 1993–1996.


    Ornithologists of the older generation still have a good knowledge of the situation of breeding birds in the 1950s. With standardised interviews, this knowledge is used as far as possible. Data are also extracted from the archives of the Swiss Ornithological Institute, in particular from the archive of the book "Die Brutvögel der Schweiz" published in 1962. These archives have so far not been analysed in this respect. Regional overviews, publications and reports on observations published in the journals "Nos Oiseaux" and "Der Ornithologische Beobachter" are also used.

    For about a third of the roughly 200 breeding bird species (mostly the rare ones), changes in occurrence since the 1950s are already documented reasonably well. For another third there are no indications of massive changes. Emphasis is therefore laid on species for which there are signs of changes in range and abundance.


    Based on the distribution of bird species in the 1950s, this project provides the basis for a (new) assessment of the current status of birds in Switzerland.

    In the meantime the project has been completed with the publication of the book “Historical Atlas of Breeding Birds”.

    Project management

    Peter Knaus


    Knaus, P. (2011):
    Verflogene Vielfalt.
    Knaus, P., R. Graf, J. Guélat, V. Keller, H. Schmid & N. Zbinden (2011):
    Atlas historique des oiseaux nicheurs. La répartition des oiseaux nicheurs de Suisse depuis 1950.