Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spring birdsong - The Dunnock

The weather warmed up considerably this morning and it was obviously having an effect on the hormones of the local bird population who were singing with a spring in their step all over Golden Hill Country Park. I went for a walk first thing and recorded this Dunnock singing. The light is not good, but I like the early morning silhouette. What I found interesting about this bird is the warble that can be heard at 49 seconds, 1 minute 07 seconds and 1 minute 14 seconds. I confess that I've never really noticed it before, unless this is a variation for this region or else this particular bird: Dunnocks, or Hedge Accentors, can be heard singing all over the place. The best description I've heard of this song is that it reminds you of a squeaky trolley being pulled along. The call sounds like a rusty hinge on a gate - a simple 'creak'. According to research, Dunnocks string together between 2 and 5 different phrases to make up a song sequence. They have a repertoire of some 10 to 15 phrases which they mix and match. After singing a particular song the bird will then change the sequence. What is fascinating is that research shows that the male will typically change to a new song after he has sung the same sequence about 20 times. But, if he is actively searching for a mate, then he will change the song after only singing it a few times. It's all very complicated (just like the life of a Dunnock which I'll share another time) but if you want to learn more you can read a fascinating paper here. This year I'm going to be listening particularly closely to just what our local accentors are singing! And listen out for that little warble and let me know if you hear it where you live!

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