National red lists of threatened animal and plant species prepared according to the criteria of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) adequately reflect the extinction risk of species within a country but cannot be used directly to set conservation priorities. In particular, the signficance of national populations for the conservation of the species as a whole is not taken into account. We present a procedure that can be used to assess national responsibility based on the national red-list status of a species, the international importance of the national population, and the species' "historical rarity" status. We distinguished five responsibility classes for breeding birds: B1, threatened species with internationally important populations in Switzerland; B2, threatened species with internationally less important populations; B3, nonthreatened species with internationally important populations; B4, nonthreatened species with internationally less important populations; and B5, species that have never been common in Switzerland Two responsibility classes were distinguished for birds occurring in Switzerland as visitors: G1, species with large concentrations in Switzerland and all unfavorable conservation status in Europe, and G2, species with large concentrations in Switzerland and a favorable conservation status in Europe. Two additional classes (G3 and G4) for visiting species occurring in internationally less important numbers are possible but were not analyzed in detail. Responsibility classes B1, B2, B3, G1, and G2 were defined as species of national conservation concern. We developed the method for birds in Switzerland, but it can be used in other countries and for other taxonomic groups as well. It is particularly suitable where national red lists are established according to IUCN guidelines.