Worcestershire Record No. 22 April 2007 p. 11


P.F. Whitehead

On the morning of 10 April 2007 I observed a female Dunnock Prunella modularis (L.) feeding at a suspended bird feeder situated close to my house in Little Comberton (SO 93, Fig ??). The bird fed directly through the mesh of the feeder by probing and fragmenting essentially entire peanuts from the feeder perch. Occasionally the bird grasped the mesh and inclined itself obliquely downward on the feeder in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Paridae. Although this is not an aspect of Dunnock behaviour I recall seeing previously, Mike Toms organiser of Garden Bird Watch at the British Trust for Ornithology suggests (in litt., 10 May 2007) that it remains uncommon but may be widespread.

The male bird maintained fairly close contact with the female throughout (Fig. ?), and the pair were nesting in a nearby cultivated arborescent ivy Hedera 'Cavendishii'; the nest is thought to have failed. The feeding behaviour may have been stress-induced, or prompted by specific requirements related to egg-production. It has not been observed since. The climate was extreme during much of April with low atmospheric humidity and an anticyclonic easterly windflow.

The observation was mentioned to Harry Green who indicated that he too was unaware of similar observations although Dunnocks are often reported picking up tiny food fragments dislodged by other species from bird feeding stations.

Dunnocks at bird feeding station. The left picture shows a dunnock actively pecking at peanuts. Pictures:  Paul Whitehead

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