The secret sex life of the Dunnock

Dunnocks are often unfairly overlooked. They are stunningly beautiful in close-up. You just need to get close:

Dunnock - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Here in Italy the beautiful low, bright, January sun allows me to see this Dunnock at its best. Its Italian name is passera scopaiola:

Dunnock - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Over forty years ago I saw one and wrote about it in my childhood nature notebooks. I wrote its scientific name, Prunella modularis:

Dunnock - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The subtlety of the shading of the grey and brown feathers is a revelation.

Dunnock - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Despite their seemingly plain feathers their family lives are much more colourful. Their mating systems include one female and many males, one male and many females, one male and one female and two males and two females. The most common variant is one female with many males, with the eggs and chicks in a single brood sometimes having different fathers. Mating only takes a tenth of a second but they can mate 100 times a day. The more times a male has mated with a female the more likely it is that he is the father and the more food he brings to the young. They’re not as plain as they look when you study them closely.

Dunnock - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Children from different dads? It happens with human twins very occasionally. We call it heteropaternal superfecundation. Dunnocks call it life.

Previous Post
Brambling - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Brambling

Forty years ago I saw a Brambling for the first time and noted it down in my childhood nature notebooks: Fringilla montifringilla. What ... Read more

Next Post
Ladybird Book of British Birds - The Hall of Einar

The First Ladybird Book of British Birds - #14 The Pied Wagtail

It's Day 14 of turning the pages in this 1950s Ladybird book of British Birds. "...it does like to be fairly near water." ... Read more

Feel free to leave a Reply :)