Swiss Alps-group

single groups
Study area: Switzerland, Central Alps

Demographic monitoring since 2015

Colour marking and monitoring of breeding and wintering population.

Research on breeding biology, survival and ecological niche.

The Swiss Snowfinch Research Group represents collaboration between volontary bird ringers, the Swiss Ornithological Institute (Vogelwarte) and the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Conservation Biology Division (University of Bern).

Main goals of the activities:

• Long-term population monitoring to estimate demographic parameters;

• Studies to understand the population dynamics;

• Establishing the fine-grained species-habitat associations and the patterns of trophic resource acquisition;

• Assessment of the potential impacts of global change on population dynamics;

• Basic research on breeding biology;

• To inform the general public about the risks faced by alpine birds due to climate change;

Ringing activity results:

A preliminary analyses of the first 5 years of marking (179 individuals marked, 374 re-sightings) indicates that apparent survival may be higher than that found by Eliseo Strinella in the Abruzzi mountains.

Monitoring of reproductive biology:

There are currently 65 nestboxes placed at different places in the Swiss Alps of which 3-11 were used by Snowfinches during the years.

2015-2019. In the nest boxes, the growth of the nestlings is monitored. First results showed large differences in the growth rates between the years.

Nest site selection and preferences will be studied by Carole Niffenegger during 2020.

Colour ring project:

Start 2016: PVC alphanumeric (3 digits) colour rings (red = wintering Swiss Alps; grey = breeding Swiss Alps);

European coordination of colour rings:

General view of the wintering study site where Snowfinches are captured during the winter.


General view of the wintering study site where Snowfinches were captured during the winter of 2015

© gallery web

© author Jaime Resano Mayor

Open wing from a Snowfinch captured during the winter in the Swiss Alps

© gallery web

© author Fränzi Korner

Coordinator of the Group in Switzerland, Central Alps:

Fränzi Korner-Nievergelt - Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach

Researchers involved Group (Switzerland Central Alps)

• Christian Schano – Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach

• Sebastian Dirren – Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach

• Carole Niffenegger - Division Conservation Biology, University of Bern, Switzerland

Irmgard Zwahlen – Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach

Daniela Villaume – Arlesheim (CH)

Simon Hohl – Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach

Arnaud Barras -Division Conservation Biology, University of Bern, Switzerland

Raphaël Arlettaz - Division Conservation Biology, University of Bern, Switzerland


Former researchers involved

Jaime Resano-Mayor - University of Bern, Switzerland

Alexander Schneider - Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach

Claire Pernollet - Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach

Marilene Fuhrmann - Wien

Fabian Fopp – Zürich

Matthew De Couto - Lisboa

• Loic Brun -  Lausanne

• Elisenda Peris Morente - Barcelona




Sebastian Dirren, Stéphanie Borel, Nina Wolfrum & Fränzi Korner ‑ Nievergelt (2021) Trichomonas gallinae infections in the naïve host Montifringilla nivalis subsp. nivalis: J. Ornithol (2021). 

Christian Schano, Carole Nifenegger, Tobias Jonas3 & Fränzi Korner ‑ Nievergelt (2021) Hatching phenology is lagging behind an advancing snowmelt pattern in a high‑alpine bird. Article number: Sci Rep 11, 22191 (2021). 

•María del Mar Delgado, Raphaël Arlettaz, Chiara Bettega, Mattia Brambilla, Miguel de Gabriel Hernando, Antonio España, Ángel Fernández-González, Ángel Fernández-Martín, Juan Antonio Gil, Sergio Hernández-Gómez, Paola Laiolo, Jaime Resano-Mayor, José Ramón Obeso, Paolo Pedrini, Isabel Roa-Álvarez, Christian Schano, Davide Scridel, Eliseo Strinella, Ignasi Toranzo and Fränzi Korner-Nievergelt (2021). "Spatio-temporal variation in the wintering associations of an alpine bird". The Royal Society. Collection. Proc. R. B 288:20210690 -

Jaime Resano-Mayor, Chiara Bettega, María del Mar Delgado, Angel Fernandez-Martín, Sergio Hernandez-Gomez, Ignasi Toranzo, Antonio Espana, Miguel de Gabriel, Is Mabel Roa-Alvarez, Juan Antonio Gil, Eliseo Strinella, Keith A. Hobson, Raphael Arlettaz (2020) Partial migration of White-winged snowfinches is correlated with winter weather conditions: Global Ecology and Conservation 24 (2020) e01346.

Eliseo Strinella, Davide Scridel, Mattia Brambilla Christian Schano & Fränzi Korner-Nievergelt (2020) Potential sex-dependent efects of weather on apparent survival of a high-elevation specialist: (2020) Scientific Reports 10:8386.

Jaime Resano-Mayor, Fränzi Korner-Nievergelt, Sergio Vignali, Nathan Horrenberger, Arnaud G. Barras, Veronika  Braunisch, Claire A. Pernollet, Raphaël Arlettaz 2019 Snow cover phenology is the main driver of foraging habitat selection for a high-alpine passerine during breeding. Implications for species persistence in the face of climate change. In: Biodivers Conserv 28 (10), S.2669–2685. DOI:10.1007/s10531-019-01786-9.

Julia Besimo 2019 Foraging ecology and wintering monitoring of the White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis) in the Swiss Alps. Master Thesis. University of Berne, Bern. Philosophisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Universität.

Alexander Schneider 2017 Influence of environmental factors on nestling growth of the white-winged snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis nivalis). Bachelor Thesis. ETH Zürich, Zürich. Environmental Science.

Claire A. Pernollet, Fränzi Korner-Nievergelt 2017, A possible mechanism of how globalwarming may affect Snowfinch population dynamics (poster)

Fränzi Korner-Nievergelt, Claire Pernollet, Alexander Schneider, Heinz Bachmann, Lukas Jenni - Bericht über die erste Feldsaison (2016) des Schneesperlingsprojekts: Report of first field season (2016) of the Snowfinch project.

Jaime Resano-Mayor, Angel Fernandez-Martın, Sergio Hernandez-Gomez, Ignasi Toranzo, Antonio Espana, Juan Antonio Gil, Miguel de Gabriel, Isabel Roa-Alvarez, Eliseo Strinella, Keith A. Hobson, Gerald Heckel, Raphael Arlettaz 2016. Integrating genetic and stable isotope analyses to infer the population structure of the White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis in Western Europe, 2016 J Ornithol DOI 10.1007/s10336-016-1413-8



Breeding Snowfinch with Tipulidae larva in the bill entering a nestbox to feed the chicks in the Swiss Alps

© gallery web

© author Fränzi Korner

Feeding and breeding grounds (nestboxes in houses) of Snowfinches in the Swiss Alps

gallery home page sito

© author Fränzi Korner

Colour marked Snowfinch: the 3-digit alphanumeric code on the white plastic ring can be read by a scope or a camera with a zoom. Re-sightings are used to estimate survival.

© gallery web

© author Fränzi Korner


© author Fränzi Korner



Finch study area during the winter season in the Swiss Alps

© author Jaime Resano Mayor

Feeding grounds of Snowfinches during the breeding season in the Swiss Alps

 © author Jaime Resano Mayor