Here’s why birds sing early in the morning - and the dawn chorus explained

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 4:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 12:43 pm
Have you ever wondered why birds sing in the morning? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Have you ever wondered why birds sing in the morning? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Spring has arrived and with most of us working from home, you might have noticed birdsong in the morning more often that you normally would.

But have you ever wondered why birds sing so loudly in the morning?

This is everything you need to know.

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Why do birds sing in the morning?

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) website explains there are a few reasons why birds sing in the morning.

Perching birds, or songbirds (passerines), account for almost half of the world’s 9,600 bird species.

“While singing behaviour varies among them, most takes place during the breeding season generally more in the early morning (and to a lesser extent, late afternoon),” the RSPB said,

These birds feel most settled in their territory in the morning and they’re marking their presence to others in the surrounding area.

The Woodland Trust says: “Early mornings are too dark to search for food, and too dark to be spotted by predators, which makes it the perfect time to sing.”

The RSPB added: “There is also a school of thought that says birds sing most in the mornings because sound carries further, linked to the lack of general noise and the density of the air at that time.”

The dawn chorus can get quieter during breeding season as well, mainly during the short period of time during mating, and again whilst the young of the birds are being cared for.

What is the dawn chorus?

The dawn chorus is the name for that early morning birdsong you’ve been hearing.

You’ll notice that from March to July, birdsong is particularly present, as songbirds breeding season is during the warmest part of the year.

This is because there is plenty of food to be found and lots of daylight in which to find it.

What time does the dawn chorus start?

Timing of the dawn chorus in the UK can differ from season to season. During the high point of summer, it can begin as early as 4am.

The first singers in the dawn chorus will usually start singing about an hour before sunrise, with the chorus itself the loudest around 30 minutes on either side of rising of the sun.

The songs will carry on well into the morning as well, so you don’t have to get up very early if you want to listen in on their songs.

What birds can I hear during the dawn chorus?

The first birds you’ll hear singing are the likes of blackbirds, robins and wrens, as they are generally the first birds to wake in the morning.

Those will be joined by the pre-dawn singers, like wood pigeons and warblers, whereas the likes of blue tits, sparrows and finches will only make their voices heard when it’s light enough outside for them to see.

Generally speaking, it’s the male birds who do the singing but some female members of bird species are known to break into song on occasion as well, such as robins, tawny owls, dotterels and red-necked phalaropes.

Making their song head in the morning on an empty stomach takes up a lot of energy, so it’s only the strongest males that do the singing - this also demonstrates to female birds that they are fit, healthy and hold a territory in the area.

A loud song from a bird can also serve as a deterrent for any rival birds who might be looking to make a move on their spot.