Why do birdwatchers love their sport? Tracking birds through woodlands and nature reserves is healthy (fresh air, exercise), relaxing, and an excellent way to socialize through joining like-minded groups. Birds are little ambassadors of nature, and following them around will help you connect to the natural world.
And when it comes to interacting with nature, there’s no better activity than birdwatching in Switzerland. The little alpine country has hiking trails through pine forests, valley meadows, and large lakes that attract wintering waterbirds.
As of 2022, according to the Swiss Ornithological Institute and Avibase, Switzerland has a total of 439 bird species. That’s pretty amazing when Australia, a gigantic country when compared to Switzerland, has only slightly over half more at around 850 species.
Get started birdwatching in Switzerland with the best spots to go, and more, below.
Table of Contents
Best Spots for Birdwatching
Switzerland National Park
One of the country’s top natural highlights, the Switzerland National Park covers an area of 170 square kilometers with 8 kilometers of nature trails for exploring the country’s diverse flora and fauna. Strict conservation measures call for visitors to stay on the marked trails, but you will see plenty of wildlife including birds.
More than 100 species inhabit the park including the reintroduced Alpine Chough, Golden Eagle, and Northern Raven found in the highest levels of the park. Keep in mind that only Ptarmigans are found above the treeline in winter. With a little luck, you may spot a Bearded Vulture along the hiking trails that lead from Zernez to Val Stabelchod or across the Schera and Buffalora Mountains. Keep an eye out for the Nutcracker, the park’s logo.
The Switzerland National Park is found in eastern Europe in the Western Rhaetian Alps within the canton of Graubünden. The park is a strict nature reserve with the highest level of protection Dogs aren’t allowed even on a leash. A visitors center is located in the village of Zernez, the gateway to the park.
Lake Neuchatel is one of Switzerland’s largest and most important lakes. A number of nature reserves dot the shores of the lake.
Fanel Nature Reserve and the adjacent Chablais de Cudrefin protected area are the two best birdwatching locations. The area provides a habitat of sandbanks and islands with marsh and reed beds surrounded by a deciduous forest. You’ll see several bird species of interest here including wintering waterbirds such as swans, geese, great egrets, and red-throated shrikes. In spring, watch for gulls, terns, waders, and warblers. Spring is also the time for the rarer grey-headed woodpecker.
The nearby Grosses Moos, a mostly agricultural area that was once Europe’s largest marshland is another excellent birdwatching area near the lake. Here you can see Corn Buntings, the Common Whitethroat, and the lesser-seen Booted Eagle and Rosy Starling.
Lake Neuchatel is spread across the cantons of Neuchâtel, Vaud, Fribourg, and Bern.
Part of the largest adjoining pine forest in central Europe, Pfyn Forest is a huge nature park extending from the region’s terraced vineyards to the mountains. A wide range of diverse ecosystems lie within the area including over 100 species of breeding birds in their natural habitats.
Many interesting birds can be spotted here including the Rock Bunting, Chamois, and Red-billed Chough. With luck, you may even see the rare bearded vulture here as well.
Pfyn Forest has around 71 birdwatching trails most of which are moderate to difficult for hiking. There are, however, two easy trails — the Leukerbad-Birchen via Geissweg and the Old Thashing Lower Slaughter. Hand-curated trail maps and driving directions are available.
Located in the vicinity of Zurich, Neeracherried is a picturesque nature reserve spread over 105 hectares with various habitats that attract birds. It’s one of the few remaining sizeable flat bogs in Switzerland. There is an entrance fee of CHF 7 for adults but the visit is definitely worth it, especially during bird migration season (early spring.)
Neeacherried provides a breeding area for a few rare birds such as the Little Bittern, Yellow Wagtail, Lapwing, and Nightingale. It’s also a resting place for migratory birds like the beautiful Blue Kingfisher.
One of Neeacherried’s best features is a footbridge that leads to a marshy area where visitors can view the birds up close. The reserve also has two nature trails and two bird hides.
Le Bolle di Magadino
Le Bolle di Magadino is a large nature reserve located where Lake Maggiore and the Ticino River converge on the south side of the Alps. It is a significant biotope for nesting and migrating birds as well as a Ramsar wetland site. The water meadow landscape is both beautiful and ecologically valuable with nature trails that meander through it.
More than 300 bird species have been spotted at the reserve, with the rarest being the Kingfisher. Many of them nest here while others pass through when migrating from Europe to Africa and back again.
Other Bird-Watching Tours & Locations
There are actually dozens of great spots to birdwatch in Switzerland and the above is just a sample. Online you will find some great tours you can do to really find the hidden gems in this country:
Most Common Bird Species in Switzerland
The Black Redstart and Chaffinch are the most common followed by Blackbird, Robin, BlueTit, Great Tit, and Blackcap.
Map of Birdwatching in Switzerland
Best Time to Go Birdwatching
The spring and summer months are the best times to go birdwatching in Switzerland.
Tips for Birdwatching in Switzerland
- Use a full-size pair of binoculars with a power field view of 7 x 35 or 8 x 42.
- Take a field guidebook along with you.
- Go between dawn and 11 am when birds are the most active.
- Avoid wearing clothing that rustles such as corduroy or squeaking shoes.
- Go alone or in a small group and remain quiet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the rare or unique bird species that can be seen in Switzerland?
Rare or unique bird species you may spot in Switzerland include the Red-breasted Goose, Spotted Crane, Collared Pratincole, Franklin’s Gull, and Bearded Vulture.
Are there any organized birdwatching festivals or gatherings in Switzerland?
Several tour companies in Switzerland offer birding tours. You can also find resorts in Switzerland dedicated to birdwatching.
Are there flamingos in Switzerland?
It is rare to spot a flamingo in Switzerland since its habitat is closely bound to saltwater and brackish zones where they feed. However, you can easily see flamingos at the Basel Zoo.