Alpine Accentor

Alpine Accentor
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris, Balangshan Pass (30.910806, 102.894694), Sichuan, China, elev. 4480 m (14,690 ft.), July. (Craig Brelsford)

Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris inhabits high mountains of temperate Eurasia, from Spain to Japan. In China, rufilata resident in Kunlun Mountains in Xinjiang, tibetana on northeast Tibetan Plateau (north to Qilian Mountains, east to Gansu), nipalensis on southeast Tibetan Plateau (southeast Tibet, southwest Sichuan, northern Yunnan), and erythropygia in northeast China. Also fennelli Taiwan. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Breeds from 1800–5000 m (5,910–16,400 ft.) in rocky, sparsely vegetated alpine meadows from timberline to snowline. Mainly altitudinal migrant, but populations in northeast China move south. Forages alone or in family parties, mainly for insects, often near edges of snow patches. Very tame; often seen perching on guardrails. ID & COMPARISON Small (but largest accentor), bulky, thrush-like; flight strong and undulating. Race erythropygia brownish-grey on head, breast, and central belly. Blackish lores speckled white and broken white eye-ring further surrounded by slight white speckling; pale grey supercilium and rufous-brown tinge to ear coverts may be inconspicuous; chin whitish with fine black barring. Mantle and back grey-brown with broad black streaking. Scapulars, rump and uppertail coverts also broadly streaked black but on more rufous ground colour. Tail blackish-brown, tipped white. Lesser wing coverts grey; median, greater and primary coverts black with white tips forming spotted wingbars; black area of wing coverts often conspicuous both at rest and in flight. Flight feathers blackish with rufous-buff edges (paler on primaries) forming wing panel, and buff-white tips. Flanks and belly sides heavily streaked chestnut with some white interspersed. Vent and undertail coverts white with black arrowheads. Juvenile duller and less rufous and shows blackish streaking on buffier underparts. Minor racial variation, but most other races than erythropygia show more solid chestnut-rufous flanks and belly sides. BARE PARTS Strong, pointed bill black with yellow base (more extensive on lower mandible); feet reddish-brown; iris brown. VOICE Busy, sustained chirpy warble, delivered from atop boulder or in display flight. Dry, chirpy calls. — Craig Brelsford

THE ACCENTORS OF CHINA covers all 9 species in Prunellidae in China. Click any link below:

Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
Altai Accentor P. himalayana
Robin Accentor P. rubeculoides
Rufous-breasted Accentor P. strophiata
Siberian Accentor P. montanella
Brown Accentor P. fulvescens
Black-throated Accentor P. atrogularis
Koslov’s Accentor P. koslowi
Maroon-backed Accentor P. immaculata


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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