Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Alpine Accentors

Small numbers of Alpine Accentors are regularly seen during the winter months near the lighthouse at Cabo de São Vicente. On Sunday, there were five birds present, the same number that we saw in the 2006/07 winter and the most we have ever seen there.

Where do they come from? Spain seems the most likely but why, if there are tens of thousands of them breeding there and they are said to be mainly short-distance altitudinal migrants, do we regularly get just a handful here? Maybe there are lots more scattered around less well-visited sites in Portugal.

Alpine Accentors are polygynandrous, that is to say that they live in small groups in which the males mate with several females and the females mate with several males. It sounds complicated! It is said that males will provide food to chicks at several nests within the group, depending on whether they have mated with the female or not and that they only provide care when they are likely to be the true fathers of the chicks.

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