The Song of the Dunnock

It’s very cold and foggy today and there was a hard frost overnight, all of which wintriness made me go out and replenish the bird feeders. No sooner had I refilled and replaced the one that holds peanuts when I had a visitation from starlings, blue tits and even a jackdaw. There was a blackbird too, but that remained at ground level pecking at the frozen earth.

I was hoping to see my favourite garden visitor, whom I last saw a few days ago. This is the Dunnock (sometimes called a hedge sparrow, though it’s not a member of the sparrow family).

The Dunnock is a fairly drab-looking bird easily mistaken at for a House Sparrow at a quick glance. A quick glance is all you’re likely to get, in fact, because, although they’re not at all uncommon in Ireland, they are very shy. The one – I think it’s the same one – that visits my garden darts out from a hedge from time to time, grabs something from the lawn (presumably a bug of some sort), then darts back again and vanishes. It probably pays to be wary when you’re a bird that feeds on the ground. I’ve never seen it on any of the bird feeders, which contain seeds and nuts.

Anyway, I do enjoy seeing this critter when it makes an appearance. Although I don’t it very often I know it’s around as I hear its song very often. For a small bird it’s very loud indeed, and very distinctive. Here’s a recording:

That rapid-fire jumble of notes is very different from the song of a House Sparrow which is much simpler, consisting of a series of single notes at the same pitch.

Wrens are even smaller but are also very loud. As far as I know I haven’t had one of those in my garden yet.

8 Responses to “The Song of the Dunnock”

  1. I read that the warm weather earlier in the year has impacted the food supply for birds at this time, and hence even more important to feed them. I have 9 feeders in the garden and at the moment they are being used by dozens of birds – I am going through sunflower hearts at a high rate!

    Are your feeders accessible to the larger birds such as blackbirds and magpies? I put out separate food for them near their nests.

    I can see many of the feeders from the window behind my computer desk. Its very relaxing just to watch the birds feed!

    • telescoper Says:

      Starlings and jackdaws use the feeders. I only have three, all hanging, but one is next to a thick tree branch that larger birds can perch on while they eat the food without having to attach themselves to the feeder. One is deliberately positioned so only the little ones can get at it. I haven’t seen a magpie use the feeders yet but they are around. The blackbird visits quite often but is always on the ground.

      • We have a young squirrel that manages to access the squirrel-proof feeders. Don’t mind – has to eat like everything else!

        Our blackbirds live in the garden – indeed in a bush near the house – and they spend a lot of their time bouncing around the ground, rather than flying. Quite fun to watch!

      • telescoper Says:

        No squirrels around here.

  2. Our ground feeder currently mainly feeds four pigeons. The jackdaws for some reason go next door. The dunnock stays well away from it but does live in the garden. We had a blackcap this morning. The pigeons have over the past decade returned to the natural rock dove plumage. Before that the majority had the mixed plumage of the feral pigeons. We still see that occasionally but not daily. I was surprised how quickly it has changed back to the original plumage. It can only have been a few generations.

  3. Phillip Helbig Says:

    It’s not enough to sing, you have to have the moves!

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