Tuesday 17 November 2020

Dunnock


I took this photo of a dunnock in our local park on one of the sunny days we had last week. It posed beautifully for me and I am only sorry that my little camera couldn't do it justice. No doubt some will categorise it rather unflatteringly as another Little Brown Job, but it has stunning if rather understated grey and brown plumage. At a quick glance you might think it's a sparrow, but the beak is a different shape.

Having shared the image on FB I learnt several interesting snippets from the responses about this unassuming little bird and it seems it has quite a fan base. Apparently it has an amazing song and according to Irish folklore if you hear it at midnight this is meant to reflect the cries of the unbaptised babies as they return to try and find their parents. One of its other names is Hedge Accentor meaning "one who sings with another."

Now there's a saying that the the quiet ones are always the worst and the dunnock's breeding habits are not always quite the standard pairing. Some nests might operate on the more common avian pattern of a monogamous couple who mate and raise their young, but some dunnocks also practise polyandry which is one female to two males. One of the males will be the dominant one, but it is possible for the female to lay eggs in the same clutch that have been fertilised by both and subsequently the chicks will be fed by both fathers increasing the chance of raising a successful brood. It was believed that if you placed their blue green eggs in your home they would keep away witches. Sadly their eggs are one of the ones the Cuckoo can imitate, so their nests are always at risk of being targeted by this unwanted visitor. 

The old English name for this bird was "hegesugge" literally meaning flutterer in the hedges and usually they are to be found skulking away doing exactly that. It seems that I was very lucky to find such a bold one who allowed me to view it at such close quarters and didn't fly away. I suspect it's more used to being around people. I feel quite honoured!

Arilx

6 comments:

  1. We have always called them Hedge Betty and yes they have a lovely song. I have one who nests in my garden.

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    1. How wonderful. I love the name Hedge Betty. Arilx

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  2. "What are you watching online?" is a common conversational gambit among my family and friends. Thank you, Aril, for providing a truly novel reply, "...the incidence of polyandry among dunnocks." What an interesting diversion for the birders! (And so much more pleasant than the antics of Covidiots!)

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    1. I'm glad to have provided a diversion....anything rather than virus related stuff! Arilx

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  3. With all the extra time not travelling, I think a book on Minnesota birds would be good for my husband, He gets curious about things, but then doesn't look them up. If he had a guide, maybe h would. Anything that might bring luck these days should be smiled at.

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    1. That might do the trick. Think we all need something to take our minds off and away from the current situation in which we find ourselves. Arilx

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