The interesting Dunnock - don't call it a sparrow


The interesting Dunnock - don't call it a sparrow

If you see a quiet little brown bird hopping about in the garden - don't assume that it's a Sparrow. It may be a Dunnock, a common but unobtrusive British garden bird with an unusual sex life.

Often mistaken for a sparrow due to its similar size and colouring, the dunnock is also known as the 'hedge sparrow'. With sparrow numbers having fallen, people often see a dunnock and think that sparrows are making a comeback.

The easiest way to tell the difference between a sparrow and a dunnock, is that dunnocks behave more like thrushes or blackbirds, and are often seen alone or with one or two others; whereas sparrows are usually in groups of five or more. Dunnocks sing, but are significantly less noisy than sparrows. They tend to hop around on the ground under hedges; whilst sparrows generally sit in the middle or top of bushes and on house guttering.

Dunnocks have narrow beaks; sparrows have thick 'finchy' beaks, and dunnocks rarely visit hanging bird feeders, being happier to forage in the leaf litter.

Though they are quiet unshowy birds, and easily overlooked, the dunnock has a surprisingly complicated social life. The birds often mate in threes, and it is quite common for a female dunnock to have two male partners - who both help to raise the chicks - or for a male dunnock to have two female mates.

A dunnock nest is a beautiful sight, with bright blue eggs in a neat moss-covered cup. Sometimes a hefty white speckled egg will also be present, as dunnocks are one of the main hosts of the notorious cuckoo.

Further reading

Links to external websites are not maintained by Bite Sized Britain. They are provided to give users access to additional information. Bite Sized Britain is not responsible for the content of these external websites.