An independent guide to Val Thorens
Water pipit, Vallée des Belleville, French Alps
Water pipits in the Alps.
Water pipits spend their winters in lowland areas at freshwater marshes and ponds. In the summer, they move to the mountains to breed, finding food on bare Alpine slopes.
In winter, the water pipit has a white breast with brown streaks. In March, it moults, and its summer plumage includes pale pink underparts.
Water pipit with insect prey
Water pipits feed on a wide range of invertebrates, including crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, snails, spiders, flies, and caterpillars.
They will also eat butterflies, including the Apollo butterfly. The water pipit removes the Apollo's wings, which contain the highest concentrations of a bitter substance called sarmentonsin, before eating it.
Apollo butterfly, La Gittaz, Vallée des Belleville
All photos © ValThorensGuide
Snow finches are amongst the most attractive of Alpine birds, familiar to skiers who frequent mountain restaurants. In French, they are called niverolles. They are not true finches, but actually members of the sparrow family.
Snow finches are usually found between 2,000 and 3,000m altitude, in the Alps, in other mountain ranges in Europe and Turkey, and in the Himalayas.
Read about snow finches.
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