Dunnocks to the death 

June 13th 2018

On the afternoon of 22ndMay, my daughter, her friend and I were scanning the back garden of my house at Nedd (NC137319) for birds visiting a peanut feeder, when our attention was drawn to some vigorous action at ground level. What we took to be two male dunnocks Prunella modularis were in violent combat on the lawn, and one seemed to be getting the better of the other.  I took several pictures through the window (hence the suboptimal quality) and then opened it to try to break up the fight.  However the one on top was very loathe to leave the scene. Meanwhile a third, presumably a female, was circling the area at a small distance.

I finally went out to scare off the aggressor and found the victim lying dead on its back.  Dunnocks have a well-researched reputation for ‘intense male-male competition’, and are also known to mate with more than one individual of the opposite sex.  In this case  competition had lead to the death of one of the contestants.  A timely, if not cozy, reminder of the evolutionary pressure on individuals to pass on their genes and, at least in some species of birds, what they will do to achieve that aim.

Ian Evans

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