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A photo of a Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Dunnock

Dunnock

Prunella modularis

The dunnock, Prunella modularis, is a small passerine bird, akin in size to the familiar robin. It is the most widespread member of the accentor family, with a presence throughout temperate Europe and extending into Asian Russia. The dunnock's plumage is rather unassuming, with a streaked back reminiscent of a house sparrow, and a subdued brownish underside. Both sexes share a similar coloration, including a grey head, and adults are equipped with a fine, pointed bill.

Identification Tips

One may distinguish the dunnock by its frequent wing flicking, a behavior particularly noticeable during territorial disputes or mating competitions. This action has earned it the colloquial name "shufflewing." Additionally, the dunnock's shrill, persistent 'tseep' call and high trilling notes can reveal its otherwise inconspicuous presence.

Habitat

Dunnocks favor a variety of habitats including woodlands, shrublands, gardens, and hedgerows. They are often found foraging on the ground, where they exhibit a preference for detritivores.

Distribution

Native to Eurasia, dunnocks inhabit much of Europe and have been successfully introduced to New Zealand. They are the only accentor commonly found in lowland areas, with others preferring mountainous regions.

Behaviour

Dunnocks are territorial birds, with males sometimes sharing a territory and establishing a strict dominance hierarchy. Female territories are typically exclusive, but in some cases, multiple males may cooperate to defend a territory with several females. The distribution of food resources can influence the size of female territories and, consequently, the mating system.

Song & Calls

The dunnock's main call is a sharp 'tseep', accompanied by a high trill that can betray the bird's presence. Its song is a rapid, thin, and tinkling warble, which may be mistaken for that of the Eurasian wren, though it is shorter and less robust.

Breeding

Dunnocks exhibit a variety of mating systems, with females often engaging in polyandry. Males attempt to ensure paternity by pecking at the female's cloaca to stimulate the ejection of rival sperm. The species is known for its quick copulation, which can occur more than 100 times a day. Parental care is generally proportional to mating success, with both males and females commonly seen provisioning at a single nest.

Similar Species

The dunnock's streaked back and drab coloration may lead to confusion with the house sparrow, but its distinctive behavior and calls can aid in proper identification.

Diet and Feeding

Dunnocks primarily feed on the ground, often targeting detritivores as a food source.

Conservation status

The dunnock is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating a stable population without immediate threats to its survival.

Dunnock Sounds

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Recorded by: © 
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A photo of a House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) , male

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

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