Key facts

Scientific name: Prunella modularis
Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 2,300,000 territories

Conservation status: Amber

Family: Accentors

Length: 14 – 15 cm
Wingspan: 19 – 21 cm
Weight: 16 – 25 g


Dunnocks, sometimes known as hedge sparrows or hedge accentors, look similar to house sparrows and are often confused.

Adult male dunnocks have brown upperparts with paler and darker brown streaks on their mantles and rumps. Their wings and tail are dark brown, and they have a buff wing bar. Their underparts are grey with brown flanks streaked with darker brown. Their underwings are grey. They have brown foreheads and crowns, a grey face with brown cheeks, and a conspicuous blue-grey eyebrow.

Dunnocks’ bills are black with a red base, their eyes are chestnut-brown and they have pink legs and feet.

Female dunnocks are smaller and duller with paler grey areas on their heads and underparts.

Juvenile dunnocks have brown bodies streaked with black. They have brown heads without the grey and their eyes are dark brown.


Female dunnocks build the nest in thick shrubs and hedges. The nest is cup-shaped made from twigs, moss, dry leaves, and plant matter, lined with fur, wool, feathers, and moss.

Dunnocks lay 4-5 turquoise eggs with reddish spots. The eggs are incubated by the female for 12-13 days and she will regularly leave the nest for about ten minutes at a time to feed.

Chicks are fed by both adults and they leave the nest after about 12 days. Male dunnocks will feed the chicks during the last few days while the female builds a new nest for her second brood.


Dunnocks eat mainly seeds and insects during autumn and winter. In breeding season they will eat insects, spiders, and caterpillars.


Where to see them

Dunnocks can be seen all over the UK. They can be found in areas with vegetation such as shrubs and bushes. Look out for them in woodland, farmland, parks, and gardens.


Alan Dalton/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Dunnocks engage in both polyandry, where a female shares several males, a rare behaviour in birds, and polygyny, where a male shares several females.

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