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THE DUNNOCK

The Dunnock

Dunnocks , Prunella modularis are native to the UK and large areas of Europe with their range spreading as far as Lebanon, northern Iran, and the Caucasus. The ground feeding dunnock’s favoured habitats include woodlands, shrubs, gardens, and hedgerows. The dunnock looks from a distance similar to a house sparrow but the easiest way to tell them apart is the bill.  A dunnock’s bill is thin and pointy, while a sparrow’s is much broader and powerful looking. Sparrows also live in flocks, while dunnocks are rarely seen in more than pairs.

Male and female dunnocks are almost identical in appearance.



The dunnock, a quiet and plain sparrow sized bird measures 13–15 cm in length. It’s also known as the hedge sparrow but it’s not actually a member of the sparrow family , but is instead a member of the family of birds called accentors. It possesses a streaked back, resembling a small house sparrow with a distinctive pattern around the eye. The dunnock has a drab appearance which may have evolved to avoid predation. It is brownish underneath, and has a fine pointed bill. Adults have a grey head, and both sexes are similarly coloured. The dunnock is described by its name which derives from the Old English word for ‘little brown’.


Dunnocks are territorial and the male bird may engage in conflict with other male birds that encroach upon their territory. Female territorial ranges are almost always exclusive. However, sometimes, multiple males will co-operate to defend a single territory containing multiple females.

The dunnock’s typical lifespan is 2 years.

The dunnock possesses variable mating systems. Females are often polyandrous, breeding with two or more males at once, rare among birds. .Males provide parental care in proportion to their mating success, so two males and a female can commonly be seen provisioning nestlings at one nest.

The dunnock builds a neat nest of twigs and feathers , low in a bush or tree, where adults typically lay three to five unspotted blue eggs at a time. Dunnock’s can have two or three broods a season . Broods, depending on the population, can be raised by a lone female, multiple females with the part-time help of a male, multiple females with full-time help by a male.


A Cuckoo in the nest. Dunnock’s are one of the cuckoo’s favorite host’s. a female cuckoo will remove one of the dunnock’s eggs and then lay one of her own eggs. The cuckoo’s egg is completely different from the dunnock’s egg but is still not rejected.


The Dunnock is uusally a ground feeding bird . During spring, which is their breeding season, dunnocks mainly eat spiders, worms, and caterpillars. You can see them on the ground or low branches, going in search of food among the leaves and roots of bushes and hedgerows in gardens. In the autumn and winter, they mostly eat seeds and berries. The search for food in winter is often harder and starvation is a real threat.


Conservation status.

Classified as Amber in the UK under birds of conservation concern . as with most wildlife in the uk the dunnock is protected under the wildlife and countryside act , 1981.

Length          14 cm
Wingspan    20 cm
Weight.         25 g
Population   2,000,000 pairs

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©️ Wildonline 2022

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All images © Wild by Photographic Solutions 2018

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