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Length 15â€“18 cm (6â€“6Â¾ in), weight 30-40 g.
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.
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.
Most closely related to Altai Accentor, which is slightly smaller and with a whiter throat, but shares many plumage features.
Nine subspecies recognised:
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.
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