I am a huge fan of this small sparrow-like bird. Its name, Dunnock (Prunella modularis), comes from the Old English word for ‘little brown’ and its brown and grey colouring is certainly nothing flashy but it does blend in perfectly with the hedges and shrubs, bracken and leaf litter through which it constantly shuffles to find its snacks of beetles, ants and spiders.
The dunnock may look rather drab but its sex life is anything but. It may have an incredibly short copulation time, of a fraction of a second, but it more than makes up for that by being the most frequent fornicator of Britain’s small birds, recorded at once or twice an hour for a 10-day period! What’s more, it frequently dabbles in polygyny, polyandry and polygynandry. It seems that by mating with two or more males a female not only increases the diversity of the breed, she also helps to prevent rival males from destroying her eggs and encourages more than one male to feed her ravenous offspring. Smart female!