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Alpine Accentor - BirdForum Opus

Prunella collaris collaris
Photo © by Kevin Wade
Sierra de las Nieves, Spain, 1 December 2019
Prunella collaris


Length 15–18 cm (6–6¾ in), weight 30-40 g.

  • Grey-brown above with dark streaks
  • Grey head
  • White throat patch with black barring
  • Grey-brown underparts
  • Bold red-brown streaks on flanks
  • Small yellow patch at base of black bill

Juvenile is quite similar to adult.


P. c. nipalensis
Photo © by Yeshey Dorji
Langjopakha, Thimphu, Western Bhutan, 26 February 2005

P. c. erythropygia differs in plainer grey throat, only weakly showing the white-and-barred pattern of other subspecies. P. c. fennellii differs from the nominate race by having a more greyish earthy brown colour to the head, neck and breast, and deeper reddish-brown on flanks.


In the Western Palearctic breeds in mountain areas across the south of the region. In Iberia found in the Cantabrians, Sierra de Gredos and Sierra Nevada, and the Pyrenees. Also breeds throughout the Alps and Apennines and further east in the Carpathians and in scattered localities in the Balkans and northern Greece, much of south and east Turkey and the Caucasus. In the Mediterranean breeds on Corsica and Crete and in North Africa at one or two sites in the Moroccan Atlas. May breed in Portugal and has bred in Algeria.

Beyond the Western Palearctic range extends east across the mountains of Asia to China and Korea; also breeds on Honshu in Japan, and Taiwan.

Basically resident but undergoes seasonal altitudinal movements. More extensive movements seem to occur as it becomes much more widespread in winter in Spain, southern France, the Balkans and appears on some islands where breeding is not known to occur.

Vagrants recorded north to Scandinavia and Britain, also Belgium, the Netherlands and northern Germany including Heligoland. To the south recorded on Malta, in Israel and Jordan. First record for the Canary Islands was on Tenerife in April 1998. A very rare vagrant to Britain and Ireland (c.43 records) mainly in southern England in autumn/winter but occasionally in spring.


P. c. fennelli
Photo © by Mark Bruce
Hehuanshan, Taroko National Park, Taiwan, 23 September 2006

Most closely related to Altai Accentor, which is slightly smaller and with a whiter throat, but shares many plumage features.


Nine subspecies recognised[1]:

  1. P. c. collaris in southwest Europe and North Africa
  2. P. c. subalpina in southeast Europe and western Turkey
  3. P. c. montana in the Caucasus, Iraq and Iran
  4. P. c. rufilata Tajikistan, north Afghanistan and western China
  5. P. c. whymperi in northwest India and the western Himalayas
  6. P. c. nipalensis in southern China and the eastern Himalayas
  7. P. c. tibetana in eastern Tibet and north-west China
  8. P. c. erythropygia in the remainder of China, Korea and Japan
  9. P. c. fennellii in Taiwan


Breeds at 1,800-5,500m in mountains and high plateaux in open grassy areas and south-facing slopes strewn with boulders; winters at slightly lower altitudes. Often feeds near snow patches and in winter frequently feeds around buildings. On the rare occasions that it descends to lowlands, it usually occurs in open scrubby or rocky areas.



The Alpine Accentor is polygynandrous (multiple males and females involved in a partnership), and in the Swiss Alps, groups consisted of 3-5 males that defended a territory containing 2-3 separately nesting and spatially separated females (Heer 1996). Young can be sired by any of the males but more dominant males have greater access to females (Heer 1996).

Breeding begins late May in Europe, nest is a cup of plant stems lined with moss and feathers in a rocky crevice, often sheltered by a bush. Eggs: 3-4 (rarely 5-6), pale blue (23 x 17mm). Incubated by both sexes for 15 days. Nestlings are mainly tended by the female, but up to four males will help to feed the nestlings (Heer 1996). Young fledge after 16 days. Double-brooded.


Insects and their larvae and other small invertebrates.


Call: A rolling truririp and a sparrow-like chirrup.
Song: Resembles Dunnock, but more musical.


Partly resident and partly altitudinal migrant both locally and over considerable distance. Movements in in some areas not well known. In Europe some are known to migrate to lowlands in Southern Spain and France.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Heer, L 1996 Cooperative breeding by Alpine Accentors Prunella collaris: Polygynandry, territoriality and multiple paternity. Journal of Ornithology 137 (1): 35-51

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