Polygynandry?

Alpine-AccentorKnow what that is?

The Alpine Accentor is one of my favourite birds. Small groups of them are regular visitors to the terraces and car parks in the Sierra Nevada Ski resort, supplementing their insect and seed diet with scraps from restaurant tables and skiers’ packed lunches. Most people pay no attention to the “Sparrows” but a closer look reveals a very attractive and interesting little bird.

For a start they are true mountain dwellers, living mainly above 2000 metres, and it can cut a fine figure in the snow with their mottled orange flanks and streaky black, white and grey plumage. Below the thin yellow and black insectivores beak is an unusual white ¨Bib¨ with fine black speckles, a very distinctive feature.

Now if all this isn’t enough to set them apart then consider their sex life. They are polygynandrous! That is, both sexes attempt to mate with every group member of the opposite sex, but the dominant alpha male (usually the oldest) will often protect his favourite females from lowly ranked males. The males then provide food for each brood of the females  with whom they have had their wicked way with. In other words, if there’s any chance those kids are mine then I must pay. Very responsible behaviour I say, it is a pity some members of our own society are not so virtuous.

Steven Powell – ABS Member