Back to blog listings

Springtime is sing-time

Posted: Wednesday 15th April 2015 by Community

(c) Amy Lewis

Springtime is sing-time in the bird world, and many of the songsters you hear are male birds, full of testosterone, advertising their availability to females whilst simultaneously warning rivals away from their patch.

You might not think that indulging in a sing-song in the early morning light is a particularly great way of showing how fit a bird is; however, research suggests that the quality of a birds song is a good indication of health – the females check for accuracy, performance and volume in many cases – and of course, when you’re a small bird, making a lot of noise advertising your location is a big risk!

As the temperature rises, our native birds begin to think about finding a mate. As it's easier to find food for their young when the days and long and warm and full of insects, many birds like to time their breeding season to the warmest part of the year.

As such the lengthening warming days prompt them to spring into action, and spring into song from late April to early June in order to attract a mate. Our resident birds, such as robins and great tits, will begin the dawn chorus in April, and as the migrants return, chiff chaffs, and blackcaps will swell the chorus to truely epic proportions - every year you'll find it a surprise just how loud they become!

The early bird gets the worm...

The first birds will often begin singing up to an hour before sunrise, but the peak time is usually half an hour before to half an hour after dawn. Birds such as skylarks and song thrushes will begin the chorus, calling through the still cool air before being joined by wrens and warblers as the sun warms the morning.

At this time in the morning, this still air means that their song can travel significantly further than later in the day. For some of us with particularly enthusiastic feathered neighbours this may become your seasonal alarm clock, awakening you with a gorgeous (but maybe somewhat unwelcome) serenade, particularly if your local starling has learned the dulcit tones of a car alarm!

For example, with an impressively loud song for its size, the wren has the loudest bird song in Britain. Parts of their song are outside the human ability to hear them but the bits we can hear can be heard more than 500 metres away! The chaffinch, a cheerful and familiar visitor to many of our gardens has unique regional dialects – so a Scottish chaffinch would not get far wooing one of our Gloucestershire females!  

How to listen to the dawn chorus

May is usually a good time to enjoy the dawn chorus. Check the weather forecast for a clear fine day with little wind, and remember it's a tad chilly at this time in the morning.

It's easy to experience, the less eager among us may simply set an alarm clock for just before dawn, crack open the window and listen whilst nestled in a warm bed and the more adventurous 'early-birds' might take a pre-dawn trip to a local green space or nature reserve, and wait for the chorus to begin with hot coffee and perhaps some warm porridge.

Of course, if you want to experience the dawn chorus in expert company, why not join us at one of our Dawn Chorus events. We'd love to see you!

Read Community's latest blog entries.


There are currently no comments, why not be the first.