Prunella modularis

The Dunnock is an inconspicuous little brown bird, which stays in bushes or close to cover as it forages near the ground for food.  It is also known as the ‘hedge sparrow’, though it is not actually related to house or tree sparrows and has a different shaped pointed bill which is ideal for insect feeding. 

Description: The Dunnock is about 5 1/2 in (14 cm) long, similar in size to a House Sparrow.  It has a brown back, with dark streaks, and a grey throat, underparts and stripe above the eye.  Male and female are similar, and equally well camouflaged in shady hedges and woodland.  The Dunnock's high piping song can be heard for most of the year, and sometimes even at night.  Outside the breeding season, it is usually solitary and only gathers together in small groups when food is plentiful. 

Nesting and breeding:  The breeding season lasts from late March to early July, with 2 or 3 broods.  The male and female builds a cup-shaped nest of grass and moss, lined with wool and hair, low down in a hedgerow or bush.  The female then lays 3-5 light blue eggs which hatch after about 13 days.  The nestlings are fed by both parents, flying after about 12 days.  

Where to see them

  • Dunnocks are found throughout Britain except the extreme north 
  • They stay close to their birthplace, except for some winter visitors to eastern counties 
  • They breed wherever there are small trees and shrubs, and are particularly plentiful in gardens and parks 
  • The Dunnock population dropped rapidly after 1970, and although it has now stabilised, the bird is on the RSPB’s ‘Amber’ watch list 
  • What they eat

  • Dunnocks eat small insects, larvae, spiders, earthworms and small seeds 
  • They creep around the ground foraging for food, always close to cover
  • In the garden, Dunnocks will usually feed on the ground underneath the bird table on seeds and scraps, including grated cheese
  • Recommended Farbrook Farm foods: Premium Wild Bird Food, Insect Suet Pellets, Dried Mealworms.
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