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A photo of a Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris)
Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor

Prunella collaris

The Alpine accentor, Prunella collaris, is a small, robust passerine bird, slightly larger than the familiar dunnock. It measures 15–17.5 cm in length and is characterized by a streaked brown back, reminiscent of a house sparrow. The adult's head is a distinguished grey, with red-brown spotting adorning the underparts. Its bill is finely pointed, befitting its insectivorous diet. Both sexes are similar in appearance, though males may exhibit more pronounced contrasts. Juveniles can be identified by their browner heads and underparts.

Identification Tips

When observing the Alpine accentor, look for its robin-sized stature and the distinctive grey head of the adults. The red-brown spotting on the underparts is a key feature, along with the streaked brown back. The fine pointed bill is another identifying characteristic of this species.

Habitat

This bird favors the bare mountainous areas, where low vegetation provides a sparse cover. It thrives at altitudes above 2,000 meters.

Distribution

The Alpine accentor is native to the mountain ranges of southern temperate Europe, parts of Lebanon, and Asia. It is generally a resident bird, but during winter, it may descend to lower altitudes and latitudes. Occasionally, some individuals may wander far from their usual range, turning up as rare vagrants in places like Great Britain.

Behaviour

The Alpine accentor is known for its unique social structure, forming breeding groups that consist of several unrelated males and females. These groups exhibit a polygynandrous mating system, where both sexes may mate with multiple partners. Dominance hierarchies exist among males, with alpha males typically being older and more dominant than subordinates.

Breeding

Nesting low in bushes or rock crevices, the Alpine accentor lays 3–5 unspotted sky-blue eggs. The breeding groups, consisting of multiple males and females, share complex mating and parental care behaviors. DNA fingerprinting has revealed mixed paternity within broods, though each female is the true mother of her nestlings. Males provide care to chicks in various nests, depending on their likelihood of being the true fathers.

Similar Species

The Alpine accentor may be confused with the dunnock or house sparrow due to some similarities in size and coloration. However, its grey head and red-brown spotted underparts, along with its mountain habitat, help distinguish it from these species.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List has classified the Alpine accentor as Least Concern, indicating that, currently, there are no significant threats to its population levels.

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Alpine Accentors on Birda

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More Accentors

A photo of a Black-throated Accentor (Prunella atrogularis)

Black-throated Accentor

Prunella atrogularis
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