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Living with Birds Dunnock Nick Baker's Nesting Favourite Tweetapedia

Nick Baker's Nesting Favourites – No. 6


"The ‘dirty dunnock' is possibly a little racy for inclusion here. Also known as the hedge sparrow, it's Britain’s only native breeding member of the Accentor family - so it really isn't a sparrow at all.

This is a bird that's famously promiscuous, with all sorts of loose family arrangements. These stretch from regular monogamous pairings to complex set-ups involving shared females and males, threesomes and even group nesting, with everyone sharing each other! But that aside it’s also the owner of one of the most under-appreciated voices in the garden. What’s more, they’ll sing when many other fussy species will not.

Listen out for a lovely bouncy warbling song, typically delivered from the top of a hedge, often when it’s a bit gloomy. Other than this they tend to lurk and loiter: they're easy to miss, even though we have probably all got a dunnock nesting nearby.

Dunnock Photo

Because of the complexity of their breeding relationships, following a bird back to a nest can get a little confusing. But if and when you do, you could be lucky to see a clutch of 4-5 sky blue eggs (20mm x 15mm) that rival those of the song thrush."

Dunnock I1

Nesting Timeline

The fine, complex and bright song of the Dunnock, starts ringing out early as the males start to advertise for females. They start to sort out their complex sex lives - look out for birds chasing birds, lot of wing flicking and a strange often repeated tedious squeaking vocalisation.
The nest is often much bulkier than you might expect from a bird of its modest size. Hidden away, in undergrowth, tangles, thickets and even cavities. A solid base of moss, grass, leaves, with a cup lined with fine materials such as moss, hair and feathers.
3-6 bright blue eggs are laid and hatch after 11-12 days.
The young spend about 11-15 days in the nest being provisioned by the female and any male she’s managed to tie down into a pairing with her.
Possibly thanks to their highly complex multi-male, multi-female and group nesting will often nest again and there can be birds in a nest late into the summer.

Nick’s 8 Winter Mammals