Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas

Distribution and population trends of birds
in Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Birds face a changing world

The state of birdlife reflects our relationship with nature and our landscapes. The atlas presents the current distribution, abundance and altitudinal distribution of all breeding birds in Switzerland and Liechtenstein with unprecedented precision. Most importantly, it highlights the profound changes that have taken place in the Swiss avifauna over the past 20 to 60 years. This comprehensive reference book provides an important foundation for the protection and conservation of native birds and their habitats.

Available in German and French

In English

A look inside

During four years, more than 2000 volunteers were out in the field documenting the bird populations of Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Their effort has resulted in a unique overview of the distribution and current state of our breeding birds.

species or
subspecies accounts
kilos of in-depth
atlas maps
focus topics

«For the next 20 years, the Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas 2013–2016 will be the standard work of reference when it comes to assessing the state of our native bird communities and how they are changing over time.»

Prof. Dr. Lukas Jenni
Former Chairman of the Institute Management
and Scientific Director Ornithological Institute

Key findings

Overall, the number of species has remained constant since 1993–1996. But many breeding bird species have declining populations and are also experiencing range loss.

Many long-distance migrants have lost ground. Insectivores in particular are in steady decline.

Several birds of prey have made a longterm recovery. These popular, iconic birds are well protected by law.

The effects of global warming are clearly visible and have caused several species to move to higher ground.

Farmland birds have suffered the greatest losses. While the lowlands are most affected, pressure is increasing in the mountains as well.

Several woodland species have increased in number. The growing forest area, nature-friendly forest management and more deadwood have given woodland birds a boost.

Conservation action has become essential. Recovery measures have succeeded in reversing the trend for several threatened species.

Special issue of «The State of Birds in Switzerland»

The publication «The State of Birds in Switzerland»: Special Issue on the Breeding Bird Atlas 2013–2016” summarises the key findings of the new breeding bird atlas and takes stock of the developments of the past 20 years.

Contents of the atlas

Focus – exploring topics and trends relevant to several species Learn more

Agriculture has a responsibility for bird conservation

The federal government has defined target and characteristic species that merit special conservation efforts in agricultural environments. Despite the…

A closer look: crows, sparrows and hybrids

For many species, the Alps are a natural barrier that limits their range. In Switzerland there is a wide contact zone along this boundary where the ranges…

Rails: secretive life between water and land

Rails are found in the shallow-water zones of wetlands. They tend to inhabit dense vegetation, so acoustic communication plays a vital role. The three…

Learn more
Background - a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the atlas Learn more

How was the swiss breeding bird atlas book made?

A short video shows how the book was produced at the printing company Stämpfli AG and at the bindery Bubu AG.

The Swiss breeding bird atlas in a nutshell (Explainervideo)

In a nutshell - a short movie of the Swiss breeding bird atlas

Learn more
Methods - from data collection to final results Learn more

The atlas project presented enormous challenges in terms of the organisation of fieldwork, the search for volunteers and the subsequent analysis of data. The approximately 200 species of breeding birds require different survey methods depending on their occurrence, abundance and biology. Methods for producing the maps are also varied.

Learn more

Tremendous support

Countless individuals, organisations and institutions contributed to the success of the 2013–2016 breeding bird atlas in a number of ways. Special thanks goes to all field ornithologists who collected the data used in the production of the atlas.

We estimate that volunteer observers spent a total of about 3.9 working years on fieldwork and travelled 46 438 km.

more than
volunteer collaborators
kilometres covered
during the territory
mapping surveys
bird observations
observers who
submitted at least
1000 records

«Overall, the results of the large bird census are sobering. This is due to the fact that a number of species had to leave their feathers untouched, especially birds from the agricultural area.»

Peter Knaus
Project manager and main author

Order the book

Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas 2013–2016

Distribution and population trends of birds
in Switzerland and Liechtenstein

648 pages 24x32 cm
Climate-neutral printing on FSC-certified paper
produit en Suisse
Produced in Switzerland
Available in German, French and Italian

CHF 88.00 

Of the approximately 200 breeding bird species
in Switzerland, more than half are currently threatened
or considered near-threatened.

Donate now › 


Special thanks goes to the following donors for their generous support.


Corrigendum: Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas 2013–2016

Peter Knaus & Nicolas Strebel, June 2020