Dunnock

Prunella modularis

14.5cm

Appearance

Has a narrow, pointy bill and pinkish-red legs. It is mostly bluish-grey underneath, except the flanks are brownish and darkly streaked; the chestnut-brown back is also darkly streaked. The crown is brownish, the face is greyish and the wings have a pale bar. Juveniles resemble adults but the streaking is more vivid.

Habitat

Has a large range of habitats such as gardens, woodland, bramble, and agricultural land bordered with hedges.

Character

Can appear rather mouse-like when it is moving through vegetation, low to the ground. Is usually alone most of the time outside of breeding season. Has a courtship display of snapping open the wings and moving them above the back while letting out a piercing call. A dominant male pecks a female's cloaca and she releases a collection of sperm. A female may have multiple mates, and the more submissive male tends to the young.

Food

Usually eats on the ground. Diet includes beetles, snails, spiders, flies, worms, springtails, berries, seeds and grain.

Breeding

A variety of combinations occur with pairing. Some pairs consist of one male and one female, others have one male and two females, while multiple females may have arrangements with multiple males. Female lays 4 or 5 eggs beginning in March, and she incubates them for 14-15 days. Both adults care for hatchlings, which are able to fly at about 12-15 days old, but rely on parents for another two or three weeks. Up to three broods may be raised.

Population

Resident Dunnocks of the region rarely travel far. Scandinavian populations are migratory, and the region may receive some of these visitors in the east during autumn. Dunnock territories in the UK exceed 2.5 million, and there are more than 500 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Despite their widespread distribution, Dunnocks can be difficult to observe. This is in part due to their timid nature, and their habit of ferreting on the ground in the cover of vegetation. Their call can give them away, and males are much bolder and outspoken during spring.

Voice

Has a 'tseer' call when disturbed. A warbling song is often given from a prominent perch, particularly from March. Males may adopt the sounds of nearby Dunnocks.
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