Natural History Trivia: alpine accentor

  • The word accentor comes from Late Latin meaning "sing with another" (ad + cantor).

  • Dominic Couzens in his excellent Collins Birds " A Complete guide to British and European species " notes the unusally randy breding behavoiur of the alpine accentor:

    "Alpine Accentors live in polygynandrous groups of 3-6 males and 3-5 females, in which there is a competitive free-for-all. The dominant males in each group attempt to monopolise access to as many female as possible, as in the Dunnock's social system. To protect their paternity the males copulate with great frequency, perhaps a hundred times a day, an their testes, to cope with the strain, may constitute 8 per cent of the body weight. Copulation is exceedingly rapid, lasting only 0.15 seconds, but it is aided by the male having a large sperm duct that hangs down as a sac and may be activated simply by contact with the female.Within the hierarchy, high-ranking females frequently interrupt the copulations of low-ranking ones, preventing any 'contract being signed' and thereby monopolising the males' charms and later parental assistance for themselves."

  • Wikipedia notes "DNA fingerprinting has been used to show that, within broods, there is often mixed paternity, although the female is always the true mother of the nestlings raised within her nest. Males will provide food to chicks at several nests within the group, depending on whether they have mated with the female or not - males only provide care when they are likely to be the true fathers of the chicks"


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