Tuesday, 16 February 2010

War in the Garden...

We had an open-fronted nest box on the willow tree in our garden.  It was there for three summers, but it was never used.  At our previous home, we'd fixed it to the back fence, in amongst the ivy.  The robins had nested there every year, so we knew it was a good box.  We decided that it didn't have enough cover, stuck on the tree, so D. took it down in the Autumn and moved it to the hedge of leylandii trees at the back of our garden.

This morning I noticed a Dunnock, sitting on the trampoline net with a leaf in its beak.  It looked around and then flew... straight into the nest box! Over the next half hour, the dunnocks flew back and forth, stopping for a look-round, then into the nest box with their leaves, twigs and bits of grass and stalks. It was obvious they were building a nest and we were very excited.  I texted D. at work, to tell him the great news.

That was 9am.  At 11am I got my camera and went to the upstairs window, hoping to catch a photo or two of the work in progress. 

This is what I saw:

See that bird?  That is Not a Dunnock!

If you look in the bottom right corner of the first picture, you will see the nest box among the leylandii.
The bird in both pictures is a Robin.
The other robin was in the willow tree, to the right of the nest box.

The two robins alternated between the trampoline net and the willow tree.  They were working together as a team.  The dunnocks were in the top of the leylandii hedge, looking nervously at the robins, waiting for them to go away, so they could get to their nest.

It was obvious that the robins were trying to drive away the dunnocks.  I think they may have won, as they are quite fierce and very terratorial. 

If they win, I will be interested to see if they use the nest box themselves.  I do hope so, or it will have been such a waste. 

Still, we feel sorry for the dunnocks.  Tomorrow I will try to buy another open-front nest box, which we will try to site elsewhere in the garden - perhaps the other end of the hedge, if we can make it cat-safe - in some good cover. 

We hope the dunnocks will feel safe enough to use the new box for themselves. And that the robins will let them!

It is War in our garden just now!


  1. It is amazing to see the war of the spieces ... great that you were able to capture it on the camera.

  2. I love watching nature! We have lots of hawks around here, and they're always fighting with all the little birds.

  3. oh dear, those poor dunnocks. i do love robins, but i hate bullies so go dunnocks, lizzie, D and J will look out for ur rights guys.
    Jo xxx

    ps.....feeling much better now, world stopped spinning significantly, abit nauseous intermittently but have bucastem tablets to take as needed.

  4. I will be interested to see what happens next. I'm afraid the only birds we see in our little garden are great big magpies: I'd love a little robin to come and visit.

  5. Oh no, I hope it all works out. I always feel a bit sorry for birds having to build a new house every single year.

    Strange to think of robins as the baddies though - they're supposed to be full of the joys of Christmas all year round. Perhaps no one told them that xxx

  6. Ha! Robins are small, beautiful and very terratorial! They're worse than blackbirds (which is saying something). They can be amazingly pushy round other birds, if they feel they're interfering with their nest or babies.
    Our robins seem to regard the dunnocks as some lesser form of robin and have an almost constant campaign against them. Now it has broken out into war!

  7. I was really interested to read this - our robin is a real bully and has been chasing the dunnocks off the feeders all winter - but mostly ignores the other birds - maybe it is because they are rivals for the same sort of nest site and food.

  8. Jill, it's interesting to see how the robins behave towards the dunnocks. I think they can't always tell that they are not robins. They're pretty much the same size. They hop and fly in the same way and they have the same way of hopping about with their head on one side, looking for stuff to eat.
    I think they do also eat similar foods and nest in similar places, so they are bound to be rivals.
    Sadly for the dunnocks, robins seem to be more aggressive and stronger (though I have seen the dunnocks stand up for themselves!)
    I do hope the dunnocks are able to nest in our garden. I would love to see baby ones.. I have never seen their chicks.


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