An independent guide to Val Thorens

View of Mt Blanc from Val Thorens

Water pipits

Water pipit

Water pipit, Vallée des Belleville, French Alps

Water pipits in the Alps.

Water pipits: summer visitors to the mountains

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.

Water pipits: plumage

Water pipit

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 pipits: diet

Water pipit bringing insects to nest

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

Apollo butterfly, La Gittaz, Vallée des Belleville

All photos © ValThorensGuide

Snow finches

Snow finch on Mont de la Chambre

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.

Alpine animals & birds


There are many beautiful animals and birds living in the Alps, including mountain hares, marmots, and snow finches.

Read about Alpine animals and birds.

Mountain hareMarmotte, Val ThorensPtarmigan near Pralognan

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