April 5th   Leave a comment

There are three sparrow-like birds that you can see in a Crail garden: house sparrows, tree sparrows and hedge sparrows (dunnocks). Most people are very familiar with house sparrows, but if you don’t look carefully then you can easily overlook a tree sparrow. Male house sparrows have grey crowns and so grey and brown heads, whereas a tree sparrow has an all brown crown. Tree sparrows also have little black “earphones”, a small black bib and a white collar making them look much neater than house sparrows. Any sparrow without brown or grey on the crown is a house sparrow because female tree sparrows look just the same as males. It is easy to tell the two sparrows apart but you just have to remember to check them. We are lucky to still have tree sparrows as a common bird here – they have disappeared in many parts of the UK. They are not quite certain as garden birds in Crail. Some years they are everywhere and some years not. They are always just outside of Crail around the farms, or at Balcomie, Fife Ness and Caiplie. So the gardens of Crail around the edge are more likely to have tree sparrows visiting their feeders, but in good years they can turn up at any bird table. The third sparrow-like bird that is in every Crail garden is the hedge sparrow or dunnock (or to be totally exact, hedge accentor, to acknowledge that it is not a sparrow at all). Most people know them as dunnocks if they think about them at all. Dunnocks are brownish and grey like house sparrows but have a thin bill. They feed on the ground below bird feeders and creep in and out of vegetation like a mouse. There is a phrase “as dull as a dunnock” which isn’t very fair. They are nicely streaked birds with lovely brown eyes up close, and although nothing about them is ostentatious, they go about their business quietly and successfully, adapting to almost every urban and lowland habitat available. They have a very interesting sex life as well – threesomes or more are a standard arrangement for a breeding dunnock – which goes to show you should not judge a book by its cover.

Tree sparrow at Balcomie today. Neat brown crown and earphones.
House sparrow – scruffy bib, grey crown, less neat looking than a tree sparrow
Female house sparrow – big eye stripe and your “classic” looking sparrow (JA)
Dunnock or hedge sparrow – thin bill and no obvious head pattern

Posted April 5, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: