Have you ever been awakened by birds singing in the early morning? If you have, perhaps you thought it was just a bunch of birds saying good morning to each other. Well, it turns out that birds sing in the morning for several specific reasons. In short, there is a purpose behind their songs.
What are birds saying when they sing so loudly in the morning? Why do they sing at that time of day? Do male and female birds sing in the morning? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and to discover more about this phenomenon known as the dawn chorus.
Why Do Birds Sing in the Morning?
Male birds sing in the morning to display their excellent health and strength. Many of them start singing while it’s still dark or just as the sun is coming up. At this time, the birds have not had a chance to look for food. Not surprisingly, they are low on energy. After all, they haven’t eaten since evening the day before. A male bird singing in a loud, powerful voice before eating its first meal is showing females it would make a strong mate.
To Attract Female Mates
A male with a strong voice early in the morning is going to get the attention of many female birds. Females want to have young with the healthiest male they can find so their young will be healthy. Having healthy babies also known as chicks means the bird population will continue to grow and thrive.
To Protect Their Territory
A second reason why male birds sing in the morning is to protect their territory. When they pipe a loud song, they’re letting other males in the area know they are not welcome visitors. A loud song shows the dominance of a male bird over other weaker, less healthy rival birds.
To Protect Their Young
A male bird needs to protect its nest of young. This is another purpose behind an early morning song. When a male sings out he is essentially warning other male birds in the area to stay away from his nest. Male and female birds have a strong instinct to protect their young in any way possible.
Birds Sing When It’s Quiet
Singing in the early morning gives a male bird the chance to share his song at a time when there is very little noise. Crickets and other insects chirping in the weeds are not as loud as they will be later in the day. Also, depending on the location, there is normally very little traffic noise. Plus, most people are still asleep and not outside adding to the noise level. A male bird wants to be the center of attention and it is easier to accomplish this goal very early in the day!
Some male birds perch in the highest branches of a tree, on a rooftop, on a building, or atop a telephone pole so they can project their voice even further out into the environment. Being up so high means a male is more visible to female birds in the vicinity. This makes it easier for a male and female to connect. This is yet another way to get an advantage over other male birds singing in the area.
The goal of every male bird is to be the loudest and strongest voice heard in the morning.
Birds Singing Before the Day’s Work Begins
Birds spend most of their day looking for insects or building or repairing their nest. However, it’s too dark to look for food or work on their nest before the sun comes up. So, in a way, the early morning is the most practical time for male birds to sing.
There’s another important factor to consider. When a male bird is singing so loudly, it is doing something that not only draws the attention of female birds but of predators as well. Consequently, singing before the sun comes up allows a male bird to remain somewhat hidden from domesticated cats, hawks, snakes, and other predators.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the dawn chorus?
When male birds begin to sing very loudly before the sun comes up it is called a dawn chorus. There are so many male bird voices it sounds kind of like a chorus of humans singing.
Do some birds sing at an earlier hour than others?
Yes. Some of the birds known to be out singing earliest in the morning include doves, thrushes, wrens, robins, warblers, and blackbirds. These birds are out especially early because they start their foraging and other activities earlier than other birds. Furthermore, doves and robins are particularly hardy birds, so they have the strength to raise their voices very early in the day.
Interestingly, biologists have observed that birds living in or near cities are starting to sing earlier than in previous years. They believe the reason for this is the bird song is being drowned out by morning traffic in the urban environment. The birds want to be heard over the cars, busses, and trucks, so they are starting to sing sooner!
Does a chorus of bird song happen any other time of day?
Though birds sing and call to each other throughout the day, the powerful period of singing known as the dawn chorus doesn’t happen at any other time of day.
After sunrise and throughout the day, birds are active in foraging for food and building or taking care of their nests. They must use the energy they have to get these necessary tasks complete before nighttime.
What is the dawn chorus like in areas outside of North America?
As an example, the dawn chorus takes place in the Ecuadorian forest in South America. Biologists noted that the first birds to sing in the morning there were the ones living on the highest branches in the trees. Furthermore, these birds had the shared trait of large eyes. It’s believed these birds sense the morning light sooner than birds perched below them. That’s why they begin to sing at an earlier hour.
In countries such as Ireland and England, male birds sing in the early morning just as they do in the United States.
Does the dawn chorus take place throughout the year?
No. The dawn chorus happens in the spring and summertime. This is because the mating season of birds happens from March to July. So, male birds are focused on getting a mate, establishing territory, and protecting it.
Though birds still sing and communicate with one another in the wintertime, it’s not as powerful or urgent as it is in the spring season. Birds that don’t fly to a warmer location for the winter must conserve their energy and strength to endure the cold temperatures.
Do female birds ever participate in the dawn chorus?
Females may participate with their own song in the dawn chorus. But their voices are likely to be drowned out by the male birds.
What can you do if you don’t want to hear the dawn chorus every morning?
On some mornings it’s enjoyable to hear the dawn chorus of birds outside in your front or backyard. On other mornings, all of that singing can prevent you from getting back to sleep!
One thing you can do to avoid hearing the dawn chorus is to click on a ceiling fan or portable fan in the room to drown out the singing. It’s amazing how soothing a fan can be in a quiet room. Or, if you have a machine that plays white noise you may want to turn it on the night before so it overpowers the bird songs coming from your yard.
Another suggestion is to have double windows installed to mute the sounds coming from outside.
Wearing earplugs is a very simple way to block out the chorus of birds in the spring and summer seasons.
Another solution to consider is to move bird feeders out of your yard. If you want to continue to feed the birds, you may opt to move your feeder to the far end of your yard or to another area away from your bedroom windows. Relocating your bird feeder can discourage birds from gathering too close to your windows where you can hear them in the early morning.
If you have trees with branches that are very close to your home, you may want to trim them. This prevents your feathered friends from sitting on branches close to your windows to share their songs. However, if you’re a big fan of the dawn chorus, let those branches grow!