Red List and priority species

What is the situation of birds in Switzerland? To answer this question, it is necessary to pull together and interpret the results of the different monitoring projects. A periodic status assessment is an important basis for conservation at the national and international level. Species requiring conservation action are identified and monitored to measure the success of such actions.


a.    Identifying threatened species (Red List).
b.    Identifying species of conservation concern.
c.    Identifying priority species for recovery programmes.
d.    Disseminating results for the general public, government agencies, NGOs etc.


The conservation status of birds is assessed on the basis of standard national or international procedures and criteria (e.g. IUCN criteria and guidelines for determining Red List categories). The results are published in scientific journals and disseminated in various ways to a wider public. Lists of threatened species and of species of conservation concern are revised every ten years.


The Red Lists of threatened species are established since 2000 according to IUCN criteria and published by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). The Red List of breeding birds has been revised in 2021. It replaces the list published in 2010.

The most recent national Red List shows that 40 % of breeding bird species are threatened. An additional 20 % are classified as Near Threatened. In agricultural habitats and wetlands the number of threatened species is particularly high.

The comparison between the lists published in 2001, 2010 and 2021 shows that overall the conservation status of breeding birds has not improved. A detailed analysis reveals clearly that the situation has even deteriorated. This is due to the fact that most positive changes concern species whose populations are still described as “depleted”, whereas species that had to be reclassified in higher threat categories suffered strong declines.

The Red List 2021 is published in German, French and Italian and can be ordered free of charge from the Federal Department of the Environment

Report with the basics, background of the classifications and documentation of all evaluated species (in German) 

Species list with threat categories 

Species of national conservation concern

Red Lists according to IUCN criteria evaluate the risk of extinction at global level or of disappearance from the region concerned, in the present case, from Switzerland. They should not be used directly to set conservation priorities. The international importance of the national populations in particular, but also other parameters, such as the necessity and urgency to take action, have to be considered to define species of particular conservation concern. In collaboration with SVS/BirdLife Switzerland we developed a procedure to determine species of conservation concern (Keller & Bollmann 2001, Keller & Bollmann 2004) and to identify species in need for recovery programmes (Bollmann et al. 2002). These lists were also revised in 2010.

The list of species of national conservation concern contains 118 species. It includes threatened species as well as species for which Switzerland has an international responsibility. From an international point of view, Switzerland has a particularly high responsibility for alpine species and for wintering waterbirds. Fifty bird species require special recovery programmes.

BirdLife International published the second European Red List according to IUCN criteria in 2021. Data concerning distribution, populations and trends of birds in Switzerland were provided by the Swiss Ornithological Institute. Ten Swiss bird species are categorised as threatened at the European level. 

European Red List

Project management

Peter Knaus, Thomas Sattler


Federal Office for the Environment FOEN

BirdLife Switzerland


Knaus, P., S. Antoniazza, V. Keller, T. Sattler, H. Schmid & N. Strebel (2021):
Lista Rossa degli Uccelli nidificanti. Specie minacciate in Svizzera.
Knaus, P., S. Antoniazza, V. Keller, T. Sattler, H. Schmid & N. Strebel (2021):
Rote Liste 2021 der Brutvögel: Grundlagen, Hintergründe der Einstufungen und Dokumentation der Arten.
Knaus, P., S. Antoniazza, V. Keller, T. Sattler, H. Schmid & N. Strebel (2021):
Rote Liste der Brutvögel. Gefährdete Arten der Schweiz.
Knaus, P., S. Antoniazza, V. Keller, T. Sattler, H. Schmid & N. Strebel (2021):
Liste rouge des oiseaux nicheurs. Espèces menacées en Suisse.
Keller, V., A. Gerber, H. Schmid, B. Volet & N. Zbinden (2010):
Rote Liste Brutvögel.Gefährdete Arten der Schweiz, Stand 2010. Umweltvollzug Nr. 1019.
Keller, V., R. Ayé, W. Müller, R. Spaar & N. Zbinden (2010):
Die prioritären Vogelarten der Schweiz: Revision 2010.
Keller, V., R. Ayé, W. Müller, R. Spaar & N. Zbinden (2010):
Die prioritären Vogelarten der Schweiz: Dokumentation zur Revision 2010.
Keller, V. & K. Bollmann (2004):
From Red Lists to Species of Conservation Concern.
Keller, V., N. Zbinden, H. Schmid & B. Volet (2001):
Rote Liste der gefährdeten Brutvogelarten der Schweiz.
Keller, V., N. Zbinden, H. Schmid & B. Volet (2001):
Liste rouge des oiseaux nicheurs menacés de Suisse.
Keller, V., N. Zbinden, H. Schmid & B. Volet (2001):
Lista Rossa degli uccelli nidificanti minacciati in Svizzera.