why are all the birds chirping

House Wren singing on branch, , Bird Photo, Wild Birds Unlimited, WBUYou head to work early; it’s still dark and cold. It’s too dark and cold to make a logical reason to be up, and already you can hear them – those crazy birds aren’t just awake, they’re already whooping it up with their trills, melodies and crescendos. You are witnessing what is often called the “dawn chorus” – that period of time before the sun shows itself, but when the great outdoors is already filled with beautiful sounds of nature. The birds that you hear are mainly males. They are doing what male birds do best, protecting/claiming their territory and/or trying to attract a mate.

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. It’s sending a message to other males that they should stay away…and the farther away the better. It was also assumed that females could be attracted from farther distances.

In the 1990’s, scientists discovered that this theory had some holes in it. When they studied the range of two sparrow species who participate in the dawn chorus, they found that their songs traveled just as far, if not farther, at noon as in the pre-daylight hours. They conducted their studies on both woodland and grassland sparrow species and found that their results were the same. They found that the individual bird’s songs were more consistent and clear in those pre-dawn hours than at any other time of day, primarily due to lack of wind. So, if you are a male bird trying to attract a mate or stake out your claim to a territory, it’s more important to make sure that your fellow feathered friends or foes know that it’s you singing away than it is to be heard over a long distance.

A completely different theory is that “early bird” singing has little to do with the effects of heat, humidity or wind but has everything to do with proving how strong male birds are. The way to impress the females and to scare away your competition, in the bird world, is to be big, strong and vigorous. It is thought that the better you can sing during the most challenging time of the day, the better mate and more challenging competitor you will be. So, if you can sing loud and strong in the early morning, before you have time to warm up and have a good hearty breakfast, the better mate and stronger defender of your territory you will be.

Both theories seem to make sense to me, and I think that a combination of both theories is the genesis of the dawn chorus. In any event, the reason behind the “why” becomes less important to me each and every time I get the privilege and honor of hearing this mysterious, beautiful and wonderful event. I encourage you to set your alarm early this spring, and go outside to experience one of the finest wonders of nature.

The reason behind the birds’ intense singing during those per-light hours is the subject of several theories. The widely held belief for a long time was that because the early hours of the day are usually the coolest and driest, bird songs can travel farther and farther, improving the range of their voices. It’s a warning to other men to keep their distance—the further away, the better. Additionally, it was believed that women could be drawn to men even farther away.

Another theory that is entirely unrelated to the effects of heat, humidity, or wind holds that the reason behind “early bird” singing is to demonstrate the strength of male birds. Large, powerful, and energetic is how to attract females and frighten off competitors in the world of birds. It’s believed that the more proficient you are at singing during your hardest period of the day, the more of a challenger and better friend you will be. Therefore, the better mate and stronger defender of your territory you will be if you can sing loud and strong in the morning before you have time to warm up and eat a hearty breakfast.

I find both theories to be logical, and I believe that the dawn chorus originated from a combination of both theories. Whatever the case, every time I have the privilege and honor of learning about this enigmatic, exquisite, and amazing event, the rationale behind the “why” loses significance for me. This spring, I strongly advise you to set your alarm early and venture outside to witness one of nature’s greatest marvels.

Scientists discovered some flaws in this theory in the 1990s. Researchers found that the songs of two species of sparrows that take part in the dawn chorus travel the same distance, if not more, at noon than they do during the early morning hours. They studied species of grassland and woodland sparrows and discovered that their findings were identical. They discovered that, mostly as a result of the absence of wind, each bird’s songs were more regular and distinct during those early morning hours than they were at any other time of day. It is therefore more crucial to ensure that your fellow feathered friends or foes are aware that you are singing than it is to be heard over a great distance if you are a male bird attempting to attract a mate or stake out your territory.

House Wren singing on branch, , Bird Photo, Wild Birds Unlimited, WBUYou head to work early; it’s still dark and cold. It’s too dark and cold to make a logical reason to be up, and already you can hear them – those crazy birds aren’t just awake, they’re already whooping it up with their trills, melodies and crescendos. You are witnessing what is often called the “dawn chorus” – that period of time before the sun shows itself, but when the great outdoors is already filled with beautiful sounds of nature. The birds that you hear are mainly males. They are doing what male birds do best, protecting/claiming their territory and/or trying to attract a mate.

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.

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

However, the birds have a totally different reason for warming up. Watch this Sci NC story to find out why.

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.