Quiet and shy, these ‘hedge sparrows’ are a secretive species. Dunnocks are a pale brown in colour, with an unusual bluish-grey breast which makes them adept at hiding in the shadows of garden trees and hedge rows. Their nervousness has even been noted in some of their regional names such as ‘creepie’, but they burst into life when it comes to defending their territory by alarm calling and wing flicking.
They closely resemble the house sparrow in size and colouring, but without the black mask and can often be seen close to the bird feeder. Dunnocks are very unfussy eaters and use their slender bills to snatch out and devour insects form the undergrowth.
Up until recent times, dunnocks were thought to be a very demure bird and were even seen as a model for modesty and constancy in Victorian Britain. However, new discoveries have brought to light the dunnock’s secret life of polygyny. By mating with many males, the female ensures many dunnocks will help her look after her offspring and keep the brood well fed.