when do birds sing the most

Its that time of year: despite the still-freezing temperatures and lack of greenery, birds are beginning to think its spring. And in spring male birds thoughts turn to finding mates and establishing territories.

You may have noticed a cacophony of birdsong in the wee hours of the morning. Scientists call this the dawn chorus. It can start as early as 4:00 a.m. and last several hours. Birds can sing at any time of day, but during the dawn chorus their songs are often louder, livelier, and more frequent. Its mostly made up of male birds, attempting to attract mates and warn other males away from their territories.

But why choose the hours around sunrise to sing? There are a number of theories, and theyre not necessarily mutually exclusive.

One idea is that in the early morning, light levels are too dim for birds to do much foraging. Since light levels dont affect social interactions as much, its a great opportunity to sing, instead.

Another idea is that early morning singing signals to other birds about the strength and vitality of the singer. Singing is an essential part of bird life, but its costly in terms of time and energy. Singing loud and proud first thing in the morning tells everyone within hearing distance that you were strong and healthy enough to survive the night. This is attractive to potential mates, and lets your competitors know youre still around and in charge of your territory.

For many years, scientists theorized that the atmospheric conditions in the early morning — typically cooler and drier than later in the day — might allow birdsong to travel further through the air. However, recent research shows this isnt the case. Birdsong travels just as far, if not farther, at noon as at dawn.

Although dawn songs dont carry farther, they are clearer and more consistent, and this could be even more important. Individual males have their own signature songs, with slight variations that identify them to their neighbors. If youre a male trying to attract a mate or defend your territory, its more important to let your fellow birds know that its you singing than it is to be heard over a long distance. Singing in the morning leads to a more consistent signal and makes it more likely that other birds will be able to identify the singer correctly.

Brown, T. J. and Handford, P. (2003). Why birds sing at dawn: the role of consistent song transmission. Ibis 145: 120-129. doi: 10.1046/j.1474-919X.2003.00130.x.

Hutchinson, J. M. C. (2002). Two explanations of the dawn chorus compared: how monotonically changing light levels favour a short break from singing. Animal Behaviour 64: 527-539. doi: 10.1006/anbe.2002.3091.Most Popular

Researchers at Duke University have found that when the sun is shining early in the morning, birds behave in the same way.

Researchers at Duke University have confirmed that swamp sparrows sing longer and louder just before dawn by observing their trill rate, or the range of notes and speed at which their beaks move. However, it turns out that they do it to warm up before singing during the day to attract mates, not just to welcome the new day.

They warm up in order to provide their best performance when it comes time to shine.

You would be right if you said that they are all performers in their respective fields. And what do athletes do prior to entering the arena or playing a game?

Through an analysis of the swamp sparrow’s trill rate, note range, and beak movement speed, scientists were able to confirm that these birds sing longer and louder before dawn in order to warm up.

Another theory is that early morning singing conveys to other birds information about the vocalist’s strength and vitality. Although singing is a vital component of bird life, it takes a lot of time and effort. Everyone nearby will hear you sing loudly and proudly in the morning, demonstrating to them that you were healthy and strong enough to make it through the night. This attracts possible partners and informs your rivals that you are still active and in control of your domain.

Brown, T. J. and Handford, P. (2003). Why birds sing at dawn: the role of consistent song transmission. Ibis 145: 120-129. doi: 10.1046/j.1474-919X.2003.00130.x.

But why sing during the hours before sunrise? There are several theories, and they don’t always conflict with one another.

It’s that time of year when birds start to believe it’s spring even though the temperatures are still below freezing and there isn’t much vegetation. And as spring approaches, male birds start thinking about mating and marking their territories.

Dawn songs aren’t as catchy, but they are more lucid and reliable, which may make them even more significant. Every man has a signature song that he uses to set himself apart from other men in the neighborhood. It’s more crucial to let your fellow birds know that you’re singing if you’re a male trying to woo a mate or protect your territory than it is for your song to be heard far away. Early morning singing produces a more reliable signal and increases the likelihood that other birds will recognize the singer.

FAQ

What time do birds sing the most?

Birds can sing at any time of day, but during the dawn chorus their songs are often louder, livelier, and more frequent. It’s mostly made up of male birds, attempting to attract mates and warn other males away from their territories.

Why are birds so loud at 4am?

There are a few theories about why birds sing so vigorously during those per-light hours. For many years, the prevailing theory was that those early hours are typically the coolest and driest hours of the day which allowed bird songs to travel the farthest, giving their voices better range.

What time do the birds start singing?

The dawn chorus starts some 30-minutes to an hour before sunrise, which may be as early as 4am or so in late spring. Robins and thrushes may rise earlier still – the first singers can take the stage around 3am. If you want to experience the dawn chorus, it’s best to head out before 5am.

What time do birds stop chirping?

Most birds start chirping about 1 hour before sunrise. However, when each bird starts singing depends on the species. Some birds start an hour or 2 before sunrise, while others wait until the morning is closer. Birds usually stop chirping once the sun rises over the horizon.