Monitoring birds in Switzerland


The Common Chaffinch, Switzerland's most abundant species, is surveyed via the common breeding bird monitoring scheme. The population trend of the Chaffinch is calculated annually based on an average of 14 900 observations in about 250 out of 267 surveyed kilometre squares. © Marcel Burkhardt

In the 1980s, the Swiss Ornithological Institute launched a range of monitoring schemes that are carried out with the help of volunteers. The data serve to calculate breeding bird indices from 1990, which in turn allow us to assess long-term trends. Every 20 years, a breeding bird atlas describes the distribution of all breeding species.

A species’ population trend depends on many factors that take effect on different time scales. Short-term weather-related fluctuations, for example, determine increases and declines from one year to the next. Such annual variations can only be distinguished from actual, long-term trends with the help of long time series. The objective of the Swiss monitoring schemes is to distinguish these short-term fluctuations from actual changes in a population. Long-term population trends are often caused by human influences. Identifying such trends as early as possible is important so that remedial action can be taken when necessary. Most of the time, however, follow-up studies are needed to identify the reasons for population changes.

To accomplish its monitoring objective, the Swiss Ornithological Institute documents the trends of native and regular breeding birds with surveys that are as representative as possible. Currently, we are able to calculate annual population indices for 174 species out of 177, not including introduced species (e.g. Mute Swan, Ruddy Shelduck). The individual species indices are combined to produce the Swiss Bird Index SBI®, which documents the overall situation of breeding birds since 1990. The SBI® has been integrated into various national statistics.

174 regular breeding birds are currently monitored annually in Switzerland; at 20-year intervals, all breeding species are surveyed to produce the breeding bird atlas.

Moreover, a breeding bird atlas has been published every 20 years since 1972–1976. The atlas describes in detail the distribution of all breeding bird species in Switzerland. In addition to the regular breeding birds, irregular breeders and non-native species are surveyed as fully as possible in a grid of 467 squares measuring 10 × 10 km, so-called atlas squares. Territory mapping surveys in more than 2300 kilometre squares (1 × 1 km) allow us to generate detailed density or distribution maps for many species; change maps document the changes that have taken place since 1993–1996.

The combination of annual monitoring efforts and periodic atlas projects provides us with a wealth of information, unique in its kind, on the state of bird communities in Switzerland and their trends. This detailed body of knowledge can only be maintained thanks to the long-standing commitment of more than 2000 volunteers.

keine Übersetzung benötigt: Thomas Sattler

Recommended citation of the Atlas online:
Knaus, P., S. Antoniazza, S. Wechsler, J. Guélat, M. Kéry, N. Strebel & T. Sattler (2018): Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas 2013–2016. Distribution and population trends of birds in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Swiss Ornithological Institute, Sempach.


BAFU & BLW (2016): Umweltziele Landwirtschaft. Statusbericht 2016. Umwelt-Wissen Nr. 1633. Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU) und Bundesamt für Landwirtschaft (BLW), Bern.

BFS, ARE, DEZA & BAFU (2016): Nachhaltige Entwicklung. Taschenstatistik 2016. Nachhaltige Entwicklung, regionale und internationale Disparitäten 734-1600. Bundesamt für Statistik (BFS), Bundesamt für Raumentwicklung (ARE), Direktion für Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit (DEZA) und Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU), Neuchâtel.

FSO, ARE, SDC & FOEN (2016): Sustainable development. Pocket statistics 2016. Sustainable Development, Regional and International Disparities 737-1600. Federal Statistical Office (FSO), Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Neuchâtel.

Magurran, A. E., S. R. Baillie, S. T. Buckland, J. M. Dick, D. A. Elston, E. M. Scott, R. I. Smith, P. J. Somerfield & A. D. Watt (2010): Long-term datasets in biodiversity research and monitoring: assessing change in ecological communities through time. Trend Ecol. Evol. 25: 574–582.

OFEV & OFAG (2016): Objectifs environnementaux pour l’agriculture. Rapport d’état 2016. Connaissance de l'environnement n° 1633. Office fédéral de l’environnement (OFEV) et Office fédéral de l’agriculture (OFAG), Berne.

OFS, ARE, DDC & OFEV (2016): Développement durable. Statistique de poche 2016. Développement durable, disparités régionales et internationales 735-1600. Office fédéral de la statistique (OFS), Office fédéral du développement territorial (ARE), Direction du développement et de la coopération (DDC) et Office fédéral de l’environnement (OFEV), Neuchâtel.

Sattler, T., P. Knaus, H. Schmid & B. Volet (2017a): État de l’avifaune en Suisse. Rapport 2017. Station ornithologique suisse, Sempach.

Sattler, T., P. Knaus, H. Schmid & B. Volet (2017b): Situazione dell’avifauna in Svizzera. Rapporto 2017. Stazione ornitologica svizzera, Sempach.

Sattler, T., P. Knaus, H. Schmid & B. Volet (2017c): The state of birds in Switzerland. Report 2017. Swiss Ornithological Institute, Sempach.

Sattler, T., P. Knaus, H. Schmid & B. Volet (2017d): Zustand der Vogelwelt in der Schweiz. Bericht 2017. Schweizerische Vogelwarte, Sempach.

Spaar, R., R. Ayé, N. Zbinden & U. Rehsteiner (2012a): Elemente für Artenförderungsprogramme Vögel Schweiz – Update 2011. Koordinationsstelle des Rahmenprogramms "Artenförderung Vögel Schweiz". Schweizer Vogelschutz SVS/BirdLife Schweiz, Zürich, und Schweizerische Vogelwarte, Sempach.

Spaar, R., R. Ayé, N. Zbinden & U. Rehsteiner (2012b): Eléments pour les programmes de conservation des oiseaux en Suisse – Actualisation 2011. Centre de coordination du "Programme de conservation des oiseaux en Suisse". Association Suisse pour la Protection des Oiseaux ASPO/BirdLife Suisse, Zurich, et Station ornithologique suisse, Sempach.

Sutherland, W. J., A. S. Pullin, P. M. Dolman & T. M. Knight (2004): The need for evidence-based conservation. Trend Ecol. Evol. 19: 305–308.

Turchin, P. (2003): Complex population dynamics: a theoretical/empirical synthesis. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

UST, ARE, DSC & UFAM (2016): Sviluppo sostenibile. Statistica tascabile 2016. Sviluppo sostenibile e disparità regionali e internazionali 736-1600. Ufficio federale di statistica (UST), Ufficio federale dello sviluppo territoriale (ARE), Direzione dello sviluppo e della cooperazione (DSC) e Ufficio federale dell‘ambiente (UFAM), Neuchâtel.

Zbinden, N., H. Schmid, M. Kéry & V. Keller (2005): Swiss Bird Index SBI® - Kombinierte Indices für die Bestandsentwicklung von Artengruppen regelmässig brütender Vogelarten der Schweiz 1990-2004. Ornithol. Beob. 102: 283–291.


Species concerned
Population monitoring
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