There are so many different kinds of birds. Some, like the blackbirds, robins, wrens, and cardinals, can sing in an appealing way and we call them songbirds. These birds typically wake up as early as 4:00 AM in the morning, and their songs can last for several hours.
Well, lots of birds sing for different reasons and for most, singing is an important way to talk to each other. But why do some birds sing more actively in the in the early morning than at other times of the day?
In the latest episode of SciShow’s “Why Do Birds Sing In The Morning?,” Michael Aranda explains that birds sing in the morning to get the crispest, clearest sound quality they can. Of course, these birds are well aware of the fact that the acoustic conditions are at their best during the morning. Because, during this time of the day, there is less ambient noise, and they don’t want to miss this opportunity to get their messages out – as loud, clear and consistent as possible.
Well, before we dig deeper into why birds sing in the morning, let’s get to know about the noises the birds make – “Birdcall” and “Birdsong.”
A birdcall is typically a note – like a chirp or a squawk – uttered by a bird for the purpose of contact or alarm. Micheal explains that all birds of the same species are born knowing how to make, to say things like – “Hey! I’m over here! or Danger!”
And, a birdsong is the musical vocalizations or the morning music typically uttered by male songbirds. Birdsong is longer than birdcall and has more complex pattern of notes. Though male songbirds usually sing, many females can carry a tune, too. Also, most young birds learn to sing from an adult.
Males might sing to attract a mate, but mostly because morning happens to be the best time to warn other males to back off their territory and away from their partners. “So as lovely as their songs might sound to us, the message isn’t always so sweet,” says Micheal.
Most songbirds will chirp and chitter all year long, but in the spring, they bring out their loudest and prettiest songs during the wee hours in the morning. Scientists call this phenomenon the dawn chorus – happens particularly during the breeding season, and they think it has to do with clarity of the sound.
When the sun rises, it heats the ground as well as the air. As it goes on, the warm air rises, mixes with layers of cool air and then creates atmospheric turbulence. And, this atmospheric turbulence – the irregular movements of large pockets of air molecules – interferes with the birdsong broadcast, making the sound less clear.
For male songbirds, it is very important to get their message out to set himself apart from the others and to make sure he reaches the ladies; and for this – clarity is key. So by singing in the morning, it is easier for male songbirds to send a clear, complex message to attract mates, when there is less atmospheric turbulence.
Moreover, singing in the morning tells other birds about his strength and vitality. The process takes a lot of energy and it signals other birds that he “not only survived the night, but he has the time and energy to sit and sing, instead of foraging for breakfast right away” – which can be really attractive to potential partners.