Siberian accentor – (Prunella montanella)

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The Siberian accentor (Prunella montanella) is a small passerine bird that breeds in northern Russia from the Ural Mountains eastwards across Siberia. It is migratory, wintering in Korea and eastern China, with rare occurrences in western Europe and northwestern North America.

The Siberian accentor has brown upperparts and wings, with bright chestnut streaking on its back and a greyish-brown rump and tail. The head has a dark brown crown and a long, wide pale yellow supercilium (“eyebrow”). All plumages are quite similar. The nest is an open cup in dense shrub or a tree into which the female lays four to six glossy deep blue-green eggs that hatch in about ten days. Adults and chicks feed mainly on insects, typically picked off the ground, but sometimes taken from vegetation. In winter, the accentors may also consume seeds or feed near human habitation.

Breeding over a huge area, the Siberian accentor has a large and stable population.

The Siberian accentor has two subspecies:

  • Prunella montanella montanella, (Pallas, 1776), the nominate subspecies, breeds in northern Russia from just inside Europe eastwards to the Lena River. It also occurs further south, from the Ob to the Amur.
  • Prunella montanella badia, Portenko, 1929, breeds in northeastern Siberia eastwards from the Lena, and south to the Sea of Okhotsk.

The adult of the nominate race has brown upperparts and wings, with bright chestnut streaking on its back and a greyish-brown rump and tail. There are two narrow whitish bars on the folded wings. The head has a dark brown crown, a long, wide pale yellow supercilium, a blackish patch behind the eye and grey sides to the neck. The underparts are ochre yellow, becoming strongly buff on the flanks and greyish on the lower belly. There are rich chestnut streaks on the sides of the breast and the flanks. The iris is a warm red-brown, the sharply pointed bill is dark and the legs are reddish.

All plumages are similar. The female has slightly duller underparts with weaker streaking, and the juvenile is overall duller with brown spots on the breast and chest.Juvenile birds in autumn also show more wear to the tail feathers and the tertials that cover the folded wing, and they often have a duller iris colour than the adults. The subspecies P. m. badia is somewhat smaller and darker than the nominate form, with richer brown upperparts, deeper buff underparts, and rustier flank streaks.


The call of the Siberian accentor is a trisyllabic ti-ti-ti. The male’s song, given from the top of a bush or tree, is a loud, high chirichiriri, variously described as similar to that of the Japanese accentor, the dunnock or the black-throated accentor. Breeding birds sing most vigorously early in the season, particularly at dawn, and some individuals may also sing on migration.

The breeding habitat is subarctic willow and birch forests, and open coniferous woodland, often close to rivers or bogs, although pairs are also found in mountains and spruce taiga.In winter, the Siberian accentor occupies bushes and shrubs, often near streams, but may also be found in dry grassland and woods.


Only one observation in Romania, that was near the Black Sea coast in autumn migration.

photo: Mihai BACIU

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