Dunnock, Prunella modularis

Other Names:
Hedge Sparrow, Hedge Accentor or Hedge Warbler.
Blind Dunnock (Somerset), Blue Dunnock (Cheshire), Blue Isaac, Blue Jig, Blue Sparrow (Scotland), Boondie (Orkneys). Churre (Norfolk) and, more locally (Kent), Purre.
Any well vegetated areas with scrub, brambles and hedges such as deciduous woodland, farmland edges, parks and gardens. Keeps largely on the ground and often close to cover.
        Worldwide:Across western and central Europe and into Asia but migrates south from its more northern territories in winter. Introduced into New Zealand in the late 1800’s and now breed throughout the country.
        UK: Resident except for small areas of north-west Scotland and the Shetland Isles.
        U.K. : Over 2 million territories
Insects, spiders, worms and small seeds mainly in the winter.
3 – 6 light blue eggs in a nest built in a bush or tree. Females often breed with two males at once and chicks within broods often have different fathers. The males will then both provide parental care.
Bill: Insect type bill,
Length: 14 – 15 cm.
Wingspan; 19 – 21 cm


The Dunnock is the most wide–spread member of the accentor family, which otherwise consists of mountain species.
When I first started watching Birds the Dunnock was found to be Hedge Sparrow in most written literature including the bird books. Mine and many others first the Observer’s Book of British Birds, said “misnamed “Sparrow” as it is no relation of the House-Sparrow or Tree-Sparrow” “correctly named Hedge-Accentor, and also called Dunnock” It was in the 80’s that you found it referred to as Dunnock instead of Hedge Sparrow in most literature.
It’s a bird that on first impressions is a slim version of the House Sparrow in size and very similar colouration when first seen, which is made more confusing by its tendency of moving mouse like under hedges and among the lower branches in thick bushes making a good viewing very difficult. The best pointer is to check the beak for Dunnocks eat insects so have a long slender beak to extract insects from crevices, whilst the Sparrow eating seeds have a thick bulky beak to crack the seeds.
Recent research has revealed how interesting the Dunnocks sex life is, for few are monogamous (one male one female) well most are polygynous (males have more than one female mate) more often seen with Pheasants, or polyandrous (females have more than one male mate) such as Red Neck Phalaropes, this means that both parents are likely to have more than one mate with males often looking after more than one nest, this is believed to be done in the Dunnocks case so the female will have a better gene pool of young and an additional partner to help feed the offspring even if the male is not the father to all.
It is often used as a host by the Cuckoo although this may be a recent association. Other host birds are learning to discriminate between eggs so the Cuckoo has evolved eggs to match the hosts. In the case of the blue Hedge Sparrow egg there is no resemblance to the Cuckoo’s mottled eggs and yet they are still accepted.

Dunnock Painting Dunnock
face on photo
Juv Dunnock photograph
Dunnock painted by John Pointer Hedge Sparrow photo by Paul Cumberland Juv Dunnock 
photo by P. Cumberland.
John Pointer
Paul Cumberland
by Paul Cumberland

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