Down Chorus: Why birds sing so early in the morning

Down Chorus: Why birds sing so early in the morning

It’s getting warm in spring. And have you waken up in the early morning by birdsong, especially in spring season? Well, I did. It occurs to me that why birds sing so loud and vigorously so early in the morning, even before sunrise? I did some researches online and want to share with you what i just found out.

What is dawn chorus

If you’re not birder, you may wonder what is dawn chorus. Well, Dawn chorus is collective chitters and chirps of wild birds, which is the mostly noticeable in spring when birds are either claiming their breeding territory, or trying to attract a mate during the breeding season. Mostly those noise are made by male birds.It may start by American robin, but it will soon join by the other birds singing together.

What’s more, there’s an international dawn chorus, which is on the first Sunday of May.

Why birds sing in the early morning

You may have heard various theories about birds singing in the morning, however, mostly they could be concluded as about defending their territories, mating and breeding, which works the same as our human being. Below we’re going to explore more in details as spring breeding season, warning off its rival birds, warm up for better songs, too dark for hunting and the morning quiet.


Spring Breeding Seasons: There’s common knowledge that birds sing early in the morning to attract female birds in the spring breeding seasons. Since it consumes a lot of energy to make those noise on an empty stomach and after a chilly night, in this case, only the strongest, best fed males can be capable of doing that. It demonstrates to the females that they are fit, healthy and hold a territory with plenty of food.


Warning off other birds: As we all know that, holding territory is the fatal to all creatures in the nature world, which is all about food, breeding and building up family. Therefore, everything is about to defend their own territory and prevent others from invasion. Mostly male birds sing loudly in the early morning to claim their territory to their kind. The louder they sing, the stronger they are. It spreads a message that I am strong and don’t you dare to take my home.


Warm up: Statistical analysis of the recordings showed that they start off taking it easy singing slower or with a more limited range. They only start to nail their songs picking up the tempo and reaching for higher and lower pitch just after dawn. After hundreds of takes, the more they warmed up, the better they got. Researchers discovered that warming up helped them sing more difficult songs later in the morning.

It may be that warming up helps to get their blood flowing and temperature rising to meet the physical demands of singing. To our ears we may not be able to notice the subtle differences between competing male singers, but for female birds it's likely quite noticeable and for them a well-sung song is more appealing than a rusty one and not to mention more threatening to male competitors.


Too dark for hunting Birds wake up in the early morning, an hour or two before sunrise. It’s too dark for hunting, especially for their predator. Therefore, it is safe to sing as loud as possible. And in the early hours of morning, the light is very dim making it difficult to do much else like hunt for insects so why not take this time to sing


Quiet morning: In the past, it’s well believed that bird song can travel farther distance in the morning comparing to the noontime. In the morning it will be more quiet and less be impacted by human’s activities.

However, scientists have deflated this myth and lean more about the morning quiet. The morning quiet is with less noises which drown out their beautiful songs. The bird songs may not have traveled much more far distance, but they are definitely clearer in the mornings. Therefore, birds can grab the chances to cheeping in the early mornings.



What factors make birds wake up early

Birds’ concept of Daybreak:

Before rolling out the factors that make birds wake up, we need to know how birds going to perceive of daybreak, which makes them wake up and start calling out their dawn chorus. Birds perceive the light in the environments around them to be an indication of daybreak, where they will start chirping. There are few factors that impact their  concept of daybreak.


1) Seasonal Changes : In the hotter seasons, birds wake up earlier to start their dawn choruses, whereas in the colder seasons, birds wake up later to do the same. Because the sun goes out more early in summer than winter season.

2) Light Pollution: It’s interesting to find out that light pollution from street lamps or other light sources in cities has brought up the start of dawn singing in birds , which is up till almost 30 minutes earlier than their normal wake up times!

3) Variations Among Species: Mostly birds wake up at 4 am or an hour before sunrise, but there are apparently many different wake-up times for different bird species all over. Like Robin will be up at the very early morning about 3am, while Chaffinches start up at almost sunrise.


What time do birds sing in the morning

It various from place, mostly because of the temperature. However, generally it starts very early in the morning from March to July, with the peak appearing in May and June. The dawn chorus is at its best about 30 minutes before the sunrise, but the songs keep on going well into the morning.Since the first singers start s chirping about an hour before sunrise, you need to get up quite early – especially if you want to catch the first few songs or identify individual birds.


What is the first bird that sings in the morning

Various kind of birds start singing at different times, which looks like an orchestra with a set sequence. American robins, for an example, sing up in the storm in the very wee hours of the morning as early as 3 a.m. So Robins, blackbirds and thrushes are the first starting singing. Then the pre-dawn show is joined by wood-pigeons, wrens and warblers, however, as for great tits, blue tits, sparrows and finches, they only add their voices when it’s bright enough for them to see.


Next spring, when the birds return again and start singing outside your window very early in the morning keeping you up, Please remember that they are putting in a huge effort to attract a mate and deter competitors so that they can raise a family and thus carry on their gene.




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