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A dunnock (scientific name prunella modularis) is a Eurasian songbird in the family Mimidae. It is also known as the hedge sparrow or hedge warbler, and is often mistaken for the female house sparrow. The word dunnock comes from the medieval Dutch term for this bird, “dunnik”. Dunnock is also a surname, particularly associated with those of Scots origin.

What Does a Dunnock Bird Look Like?

Close-up of a Dunnock, Prunella modularis
Close-up of a dunnock singing during springtime to attract a female

The dunnock is a small bird, brown with black and grey striped markings on its back. Both male and female dunnocks look different, with different mottling on their grey-brown feathers.

They are sometimes confused with the house sparrow, which is similar in size but has an entirely black body. This sparrow-sized bird has a dark grey head, glittering yellow eyes, and a slightly rounded thin bill with small curved projections on top. You may find some variations with a blue-grey or lead-grey head too. Dunnocks also have red eyes, while chicks have grey ones.

The prunella modularis have short legs and a long tail that helps to balance their body during flight. The feathers of the back are composed of two layers -one covering most of the bird’s body while the other is shorter and covers only its lower back.

Do Dunnocks Sing?

Yes, these garden birds have a variety of chirping sounds. Both males and females make the same chirping sounds, but males sing more often than females do. The dunnock song is heard around 3am – 4am in spring and 2-3pm in the summer. In autumn, it is heard until 1-2pm.

Dunnocks also sing to find other birds at night. They are very shy birds, so you will not hear them when they come to your house or garden. They like to sing as much as they can in five different songs. At the same time, it will let its guard down and fly away from danger by singing a loud song as it flies away.

Dunnock singing is made of a very low-pitched chirruping sound which is often when communicating with members of their group or even strangers approaching their territory. They do this to get the attention of other birds to communicate information such as to which direction food is found or whether there is danger, such as a predator nearby at which point they would like to escape.

What Do Dunnock Birds Eat?

Dunnocks are omnivores, so their diet usually consists of small seeds, invertebrates such as worms and snails, and vertebrates.

Dunnocks eat small insects that they find on the ground while hopping around low vegetation, but will also catch insects and spiders in their beak when they fly from branch to branch. Sometimes they will use their beak to remove grubs from long grasses too. It’s not uncommon for dunnocks to eat lizards, mice, snails, slugs, or small birds either!

Dunnock Habitat And Behavior

Dunnock bird sitting at the edge of water with half open beak after drinking with blurred vegetation in the background

The dunnock lives mostly in hedgerows and woodland edges. It inhabits gardens in central European countries like France, Germany, Switzerland, or Belgium, where there is dense undergrowth for hiding spots and plenty of seeds from trees, including hazelnuts to feed on.

Dunnocks are very adaptable, preferring to live in deciduous forests or wooded parks in towns. They nest high up in dense foliage because they like to live near the ground but not on it. Dunnocks can be found throughout Europe and Asia from Sweden to Japan, but they don’t migrate anywhere further south than India.

The Dunnock bird lives primarily in temperate woodland environments that have some level of canopy cover. Unlike many other types of bird which live in tropical forests or grasslands, the dunnock thrives in moist environments with full vegetation coverage for protection from bad weather.

It also needs plenty of food sources to provide it with favorable conditions for nesting within its habitat.

Is a Dunnock The Same As a Hedge Sparrow?

Yes, they are the same species called a hedge sparrow, even though it’s not actually a sparrow but a member of a small family of birds called accentors

The only thing that differentiates them is where they live geographically. Dunnocks are found in Europe and India, while hedge sparrows are found in the Americas from North Carolina to the west coast.

How Does a Dunnock Bird Defend Itself?

Dunnocks are very small and do not have any natural predators, so it relies on hiding in dense bushes to protect itself from bigger animals which might want to eat its eggs or young chicks.

The male dunnock will scare away other male birds by pecking at their beak with his curved pointy one. If he is attacked, then he can also use this pointy beak shape by placing it horizontally, like a sharp blade, to slice through the opponent’s skin.

Where Do Dunnocks Nest?

European bird Dunnock, Prunella modularis feeding its chicks

Dunnocks build their nests high in trees, rarely in the ground, where they are vulnerable to all predators, including eagles. The Dunnock nest is open at the bottom, not closed like a bird’s egg. Dunnock nests are made of leaves, grass, moss, and other soft materials such as wool or fur.

Dunnock Babies & Parenting

Dunnocks usually breed in summer between May and July. Although males and females form strong pairs, the female may sometimes mate with two males, and the young birds may end up with different fathers.

The female dunnock can lay up to five eggs in its nest. A mother dunnock will sit on her eggs for ten days until they hatch. She will usually sit on her eggs during the day and fly away at night to find bird food for her chicks and herself.

Dunnocks are born blind and naked, as their eyes open at seven to ten days. The chicks stay with the male dunnocks, but when they get older (around a month old), both parents take care of them equally.

At about two weeks old, the dunnock chicks start to learn how to fly and listen to their father’s songs while he is on guard duty while his mate feeds them.

How Long Do Dunnocks Live?

They live for about 2-3 years.

Are Dunnocks Rare?

Dunnocks are not as common as they used to be. Although they are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, they have been affected by habitat loss, pollution, and the loss of their natural food supply. However, dunnocks have adapted well to withstand these changes, which have allowed them to continue to survive in various locations across the world.

Sources and References

Dunnock –

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