Prunellidae – Accentors

Dunnock Prunella modularis ©Andy Bright Website

The Prunellidae or accentors are the only bird family, which is endemic to the Palearctic. This small group of closely related passerines are all in a single genus – Prunella. [Although the alpine accentor and Altai accentor are separated into the genus Laiscopus by some taxonomists.] All but the dunnock and the Japanese accentor are inhabitants of the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia; these two also occur in lowland areas, as does the Siberian accentor in the far north of Siberia.

Their typical habitat is mountainous regions in an area far above the tree-line, but below the snow-line. The Himalayan accentor can be found as high as 17,000 ft above sea level when breeding, however, most accentors breed in scrub vegetation at lower levels and most species migrate downwards to spend the winter, with only some being hardy enough to remain. This genus is not strongly migratory, but they will leave the coldest parts of their range in winter, as well as making altitudinal movements. Accentors spend the majority of their time in the undergrowth and even when flushed, stay low to the ground until reaching cover.

They are small, often drab species generally regarded as being related to the thrushes or the warblers. Accentors have thin sharp bills, reflecting their diet of ground-dwelling insects in summer, augmented with seeds and berries in winter.

Their mating systems are unusually flexible, with some pairs breeding monogamously (usually where resources are relatively scarce) and others breeding polygamously, either one male with two or more females (polygyny), one female with two or more males (polyandry), or, occasionally, several males and females together (polygynandry). This variety reflects the fact that males and females defend territories more or less independently. Where resources are rich (and hence territories can be small) it is possible for males to monopolise several females, or for females to attract several males. Accentors may have two to three broods a year. Courtship consists of a great deal of song from the males, which may include short lark-like song flights to attract a mate. In most species, the male and female share in the nest making, with the dunnock being an exception – their males have no part in nest building or incubation. They build neat cup nests and lay about 4 unspotted green or blue eggs.

There are just 13 species of Accentor; they are

Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
Altai (Rufous-streaked) Accentor Prunella himalayana
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides
Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata
Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens
Radde’s Accentor Prunella ocularis
Arabian (Yemen) Accentor Prunella fagani
Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis
Kozlov’s (Mongolian) Accentor Prunella koslowi
Dunnock (Hedge Sparrow/Accentor) Prunella modularis
Japanese Accentor Prunella rubida
Maroon-backed Accentor Prunella immaculata

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 13

Useful Reading
Other Links
  • Abundance and Breeding Ecology of Brown Accentors Prunella fulvescens in Lhasa, Tibet

    Article
  • Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens

    Webpage
    Distribution and status in Kazakhstan...
  • Dunnock Prunella modularis

    Article
    Food Distribution and a Variable Mating System in the Dunnock, Prunella modularis...
  • Dunnock Prunella modularis

    Facebook Page
  • Polygynandry and the Alpine Accentor

    Webpage
    Article
Photographers & Artists
  • Alpine Accentor - Prunella collaris

    Gallery
  • Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris

    Webpage
    Image
  • Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris

    Video
  • Altai Accentor Prunella himalayana

    Webpage
    Image
  • Arabian Accentor Prunella fagani

    Gallery
  • Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis

    Image
  • Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis

    Image
  • Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens

    Webpage
    Image
  • Dunnock Prunella modularis

    Gallery
  • Dunnock Prunella modularis

    Video
  • Japanese Accentor Prunella rubida

    Image
  • Japanese Accentor Prunella rubida

    Video
  • Kozlov's Accentor Prunella koslowi

    Image
  • Maroon-backed Accentor Prunella immaculata

    Image
  • Maroon-backed Accentor Prunella immaculata

    Image
  • Radde's Accentor Prunella ocularis

    Image
    Image
  • Radde's Accentor Prunella ocularis

    Video
  • Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides

    Video
  • Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata

    Webpage
    Image
  • Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella

    Webpage
    Image

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