6 May is International Dawn Chorus Day. But what can you learn from the birds that’ll get your day off to a good start?
International Dawn Chorus Day is the worldwide celebration of one of nature's daily miracles and your ideal opportunity to make a new spring start with a new series of morning devotions and get your spirit singing.
Since the first ever Dawn Chorus Day event on Moseley Bog, Birmingham in 1984 more people than ever will answer the call to rise early and listen to bird song in their own gardens and streets and at organised events worldwide.
7 magnificent 'Dawn Chorus Day' trivia
- Song birds - Latin name: Passerines, meaning 'perching birds', account for about half of the worlds 9,600 known species of birds.
- The most common dawn choristers are blackbirds, robins, wrens and chaffinches. The surprise voices on the list of regular choristers include pheasants, and tawny owls.
- Researchers in the forests of Ecuador found that birds perching higher in the trees and birds with larger eyes tend to start the singing. This might be because these birds have the greatest sensitivity to the early dawn light.
- Birds sing from their syrinx – a kind of double voice box at the bottom of their windpipe. The two sets of vocal chords vibrate at high frequency when air is exhaled from the lungs. Because birds have two sets of vocal chords, they can sing in harmony with themselves.
- The songs of birds are learned, not inherited. Within a couple of months, young birds develop a sub-song. This matures into the adult primary song about a year after, when they reach breeding maturity.
- Mostly it’s the males that sing from an elevated or conspicuous perch within their territory or breeding area. Some females sing - including robins, and some birds, such as skylarks, sing in flight.
- Birds don’t usually sing around their nests - so as not to give away its position to predators. A few bird species sing a quiet whisper song near the nest that can be heard only within a few yards.
But why do birds sing? And why do they choose to give their best songs so early in the morning when most people are in bed asleep? And what is it with the spring – if they sang in the winter when sunrise is much later in the morning, wouldn’t more people be able to appreciate it?
Songs can say: 'Come here', or 'Go away!'
Some birdsong is the bird’s way of laying claim to territory. A good territory strongly held gives a bird a better chance of attracting a strong breeding partner and providing them and their offspring with food food. Male birds mark out their territory by singing in it, which tells other males to stay away. Birds leave gaps in their song to listen for replies, so they can discover where any rivals are and where any threats might come from.
In some bird species a large repertoire of song convinces other males that there are a number of birds in the area and that all the territory is spoken for. Female birds listen for strongest and most complicated songs as an indication of the singer’s physical strength and fitness to breed. Females want a male fit and strong enough to provide for her and her chicks when the eggs hatch.
Why morning is the best time to sing
Birds sing at dawn because that’s when the air is usually still and calm. Sound travels further in the morning air and can be up to 20 times more effective than the same song at midday. It’s also a good use of time as there is little else to do in the early morning as the air isn’t yet warm enough for insects to find the energy for flight.
If a male bird hasn’t survived the night, the absence of its song will advertise to others that a territory is vacant and open for conquest. Most female birds lay their eggs in the morning, so for a male to pass on its genes to the next generation, the morning is the best time to attract a mate.
Why birds sing most on spring mornings
Increasing day length is sensed by light cells sensitive in a bird’s brain. This triggers the bird’s breeding behaviour timed to coincide with peak availability of insects as they feed on the new spring growth of plants. Breeding activity is accompanied by more aggressive attempts to control territory, hold food resources and attract a mate – all of which are reinforced by more vigorous, spring time singing.
Inspired to make better use of the early hours of the day?
Why not look at our article 7 magnificent devotional tips from the birds featuring 7 ideas we can take from the birds to use the early morning hours to get closer to God.
Quick Guide to Why birds sing in the morning?
- The air is usually still and calm.
- Sound travels further in the morning air.
- It’s also a good use of time.
Over to You
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- Can the stillness of the morning provide an opportunity for you to daily refresh your relationship with God?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, bizarre and brilliant at Eden.co.uk
May 5th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison