There is an unreasonable joy to be found in seeing birds going about with their daily activities. I find incredible pleasure in watching common birds like magpies and sparrows scavenging for food in our villages or spotting woodpeckers and nutcrackers in our forests, but nothing is as exciting as sharing the high mountains with those species that live up there. So, here’s a list of those birds that spend most of their live above the treeline, high up in our mountains. I hope you’ll get to marvel at some of these birds while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc and perhaps even experience the sharp thrill of seeing a species you’ve never seen before!
Grouse are heavily built and the species living above the treeline in the Alps are easiest described as ‘mountain chickens’.
- Rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) – see featured image
- Black grouse (Tetrao tetrix)
Read more about Rock Ptramigans here:
Birds of Prey
It’s always an exciting sight seeing a bird of prey soaring high up in the alpine sky, especially if it’s a massive golden eagle with a wing span of about two meters (feet)!
- Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
- Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
- Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Scavenging Birds of Prey
Vultures don’t hunt, but fly around looking for carcasses to feed on. The most common species seen on the Tour du Mont Blanc are bearded vultures and griffon vultures. However, griffon vultures don’t breed here but often visit from the southern Alps and are seen flying around on the Tour du Mont Blanc in big groups.
- Bearded vultures (Gypaetus barbatus)
Read more about bearded vultures here:
Corvids (crow family) are social birds and are known for their intelligence.
- Alpine chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus)
- Raven ((Corvus corax)
Read more about alpine choughs here:
One of the most spectacular small passerines of the high alpine is the wall creeper. This little grey bird is truly spectacular when it moves on steep rock faces while quickly opening and closing its wings, only briefly displaying its bright red feathers on its wings. It truly resembles a giant butterfly. It’s usually found on rock faces in high mountainous regions, but I’ve also seen it in steep gorges lower down. Another exciting sighting is the dipper. This small bird is often seen dipping in and out of the water of fast streaming mountain streams whilst hunting for small insects.
- Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria)
- Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)
- black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
- water pipit (Anthus spinoletta)
- northern wheatear – Oenanthe Oenanthe
- alpine accentor (Prunella collaris)
- snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis)
Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba)
Read more about Wildlife in the Alps
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