Highlight of this week has been the return of a Dunnock to the garden. These were more or less ever presents until the arrival of the cats when they disappeared. They feed on the ground and are therefore quite vulnerable. However I’ve seen an individual, only one, bouncing around the garden this week.

They’re remarkably non-descript small birds, easily confused with a Sparrow on first sight.

But they have an interesting and dramatic side to life when it comes to breeding. Unusually among birds they have very flexible pairing and mating arrangements. They don’t go in for the traditional single pair, male-female malarkey.

The most typical arrangement is that a single female will raise a brood with eggs from several males. Therefore a Dunnock nest will contain a single female with the chicks being supported and fed by several males at the same time.

Other arrangements can exist with several females mating with the same male or a group of females mating with a group of males.

This makes watching a nest in the garden, and they nest quite often in garden hedges, quite confusing but very interesting. Worth keeping an eye open for a nest in Spring.

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