Going up a mountain is like travelling through increasingly colder climatic areas in a very short time. Where harsh climatic conditions break up the forest and make place for shrubs and alpine grasslands, sometimes dotted with bogs and streams, the mountain domain starts. Going up even further, the flower-rich grasslands give way to bare rock or continuous snow. Vertebrates cannot thrive where plants cannot grow, therefore providing an upper limit for the mountain ecosystem. 


To survive the mountains during periods of freezing temperatures and snow cover, (downward) migration, a life beneath the snow, or hibernation is required. Crevices between rocks can provide shelter throughout the year. Some animals seek out steep cliffs or windy outcrops where snow does not gather and plant food remains within reach, even in winter. Moving on the wing in mountainous areas is eased by upward winds blowing along the slopes and cliffs.

Explore below how the rock-climbing claws of the alpine swift, the sharp vision of the eagle-owl and the fingers of the griffon vulture enable animals to live in the mountains!

Animals of the mountains

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Griffon vulture

Blue rock-thrush

Eurasian eagle-owl

Alpine swift

Red-billed chough

Rock nuthatch