Dunnock (Prunella modularis)



The Dunnock is a small, Robin-sized, looking rather unassumingly. It has a thin bill, though upon first look it might be confused with a sparrow. We can watch the Dunnock in parks, gardens, yards, graveyards openn woodlands, heaths and commons with scrub and hedge areas.


The Dunnock likes feeding on the ground and appears at bird feedings all year.


Althoughh we don't see Dunnocks everywhere it's European breeding population is estimated at >3 million breeding pairs. The largest population lives in Germany with estimated 1.3-2.0 million breeding pairs.


Watching Dunnocks at gardens and yards and, of course, at bird feedings is worthwile doing. If you want to capture them on camera you need to be quick, as they never stand on a spot for more than a few seconds.


Please continue reading the bird facts on the Dunnock below.




Bird Facts: Dunnock


Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Food - Threats



Order: Passerines (Passeriformes)

Family: Prunellidae

Genus: Prunella

Species: Dunnock


Scientific Name: Prunella [modularis] modularis


Names and Synonymes of the Dunnock


Name in German: Heckenbraunelle

Name in Czech: Pěvuška modrá

Name in Slovak: Vrchárka modrá

Name in Hungarian: Erdei szürkebegy

Name in Croat: Sivi Popić

Name in French: Accenteur mouchet

Name in Spanish: Acentor Común

Name in Portuguese: Ferreirinha-comum

Name in Italian: Passera scopaiola

Name in Dutch: Heggenmus

Name in Finish: Rautiainen

Name in Norwegian: Jernspurv

Name in Danish: Jernspurv

Name in Swedish: Järnsparv

Name in Polnisch: Pokrzywnica

Name in Russian: Лесная завирушка

Name in Greek: (Κοινός) Θαμνοψάλτης, Θαμνοψάλτης, Κελαηδόστρουθος

Name in Turkey: çıt Serçesi, Dağ Bülbülü, Dağbülbülü, Daşbülbülü


Distribution – Movements – Habitat – Behaviour


Distribution: The Dunnock is a breeding bird of the western Palearctic, with the distribution zone stretching from the British Isles eastwards to the Urals; the southern edge runs along the line northern Spain, Pyrenees, southern France, south of the Alpine range and Carpathians to central Russia. There are pockets of distribution in central Spain, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey and around the Black Sea. The Dunnock is also distributed in Norway and throughout Fennoscandia. In central Europe the Dunnock distributes from the lowlands of North Sea and Baltic shores up to the tree line in the Alpines and Carpathians.


Movements: Breeding populations of the Dunnock in Great Britain, Ireland, France and the Mediterranean are residential, whereas breeding populations of central Europe, Norway and eastern Europe are migratory.


Wintering: Dunnocks winter the North Sea southwards and through Germany, to areas south and southeast of the Alpine range, to Porutgal and Spain and also down to Sicily, Crete, Crimea and to the Caucasus.


Habitat: The Dunnock breeds in thickets with small clearings; in central Europe it prefers spruce forests and mixed spruce woods and also dense riverside woodlands, field shrubs, hedge regions. We also find the Dunnock in gardens, yards, parkland, and urban parks.

Die Kohlmeise besiedelt auch kleine Feldgehölze, Parks, Alleen, Gärten und Stadtbereiche. In der Stadt lässt sich die Kohlmeise durch die Bereitstellung von Kunsthöhlen ansiedeln.


Behaviour: The Dunnock is diurnal with activity mainly starting in the very early hours of the day. Dunnocks migrate during night. Usually we can watch the Dunnock walking on ground with short steps or by hopping with both legs. Moves silently like mice on ground. Feeds nearly always on ground and likes to visit bird feeding at all seasons. Dunnocks also appear on balconies and terraces.


Dunnock feeding on ground




Food: During summer the Dunnock mainly lives on an animal diet, outside summer it is more vegetable food. Animal food consists of butterfly larvae, ants, ant pupae, flies, small beetles, spiders, weavers, springtails, worms and small snails. As for vegetable diet the Dunnocks prefers small seeds from stinging nettle, all kinds of dock, elder, poppy, eyebright, knotweed, scarlet pimpernel and purslane; also grass and reed.


Longevity: The oldest known ringed bird of a dunnock reached an age of >11 years.


Mortality: In the first calender year mortality stands at c 65% and from the second year at 53§ per annum, according to British studies.


Threats: Dunnocks suffer from natural losses, mainly caused by hard winter, which can be rather high in very cold winters. Domestic cats can be dangerous to breeding populations. Usual predators are Sparrowhawk, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw.



Dunnock feeding on ground