Alternative name: Hedge Accentor, Hedge Sparrow
- Prunella modularis
L. 13-14.5 cm (5-5¾ in)
- Black and brown streaks on back
- Streaked brown cap
- Grey throat
- Brown eye
- Fine dark bill
One of the things to look for is the fine, insect-eating bill which immediately separates it from a sparrow. (In the past the species was often called 'hedge sparrow'.) The grey neckband is also a good field mark, which immediately rules out any warbler (which its song might mistakenly suggest). It also lacks the pale supercilium which many warblers exhibit.
From the British Isles to central Europe and from the Balkans to the Caucasus birds are mainly resident or undergo only short-distance dispersal. Further east and north populations are more strongly migratory and the winter range extends from southern Spain to Turkey and the Middle East and on many Mediterranean islands. Scarce or rare winter visitor to parts of North Africa.
There are 8 subspecies:
- P. m. hebridium: are darker than occidentalis with rufous-brown plumage on wings.
- P. m. occidentalis: are darker than birds from mainland Europe, especially on head and neck but also below
- P. m. modularis:
- P. m. mabbotti:
- P. m. meinertzhageni:
- P. m. fuscata:
- Mountains of Crimean Peninsula
- P. m. euxina: has paler streaking and paler grey crown than nominate
- Northern Turkey to western Caucasus Mountains
- P. m. obscura: much paler and duller than other races with whitish mottling on breast
Found in woodland and scrub, city parks and gardens, in hedgerows and copses on farmland. In mountains and the north occurs in pine, larch and spruce forests, and in willow, birch and alder scrub.
Breeds in parks, gardens, open woodland, heaths and commons with gorse or scrub, areas with hedges and thick shrubbery, also young conifer stands; but in northern Europe mainly in dense spruce plantations, also in juniper country and upland forest.
Resident; migratory in north. Rather shy and retiring in summer.
It is a rather unobtrusive bird, sometimes hopping around flowerbeds or at the base of bushes but it is not particularly shy and you quite often see it on patios or roadsides.
Nests in thick bush or low down in conifer. The nest is a small grassy cup, lined with hair, moss, feathers, and wool. There may be 2 or 3 broods. This species is known to have a polyandrous breeding system in which males outnumber females, and females mate with multiple males leading to sperm competition. 
Forages on the ground, often close to cover, picks up seeds and small insects.
Loud penetrating Tseep. Song high pitched fast warble.
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
- BF Member observations
- Davies, N. B. (1983). Polyandry, cloaca-pecking and sperm competition in dunnocks. Nature. 302 (5906): 334–336. doi:10.1038/302334a0.
- BirdForum Opus contributors. (2023) Dunnock. In: BirdForum, the forum for wild birds and birding. Retrieved 7 December 2023 from https://www.birdforum.net/opus/Dunnock
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