Why Do Birds Sing?
From somewhere in the still murky gloom of first light a sweet-sounding solo performance begins. The soloist's tune carries effortlessly through the calm early morning air before being accompanied by another, and then another, until the songs merge to create something else entirely. An open-air concert is underway; a rich, complex sound tapestry weaves through the airwaves with a steadily increasing volume that matches the rate of gaining light.
The songs tumble from tree tops and are sung with gusto from gate posts, hedges and telephone lines. From sweeping high trills to deep, guttural lows, the range of notes stretches out across the new day...
Today is International Dawn Chorus Day, specifically chosen for the time of year when that joyous sound from the vocal ensemble of our feathered friends reaches its peak.
If ever there's a reason for having to get out of bed just before first light, then listening to the morning melody from bird song has to be among the very best of bonuses.
Though we often think about our wildlife in terms of what we see of them, what we actually hear can be just as joyous, particularly in the case of birds.
But why do song birds sing? Primarily for two reasons - one is to announce and reiterate a claim of territory, and the other is an invitation, a serenade if you like, to woo a listening mate.
Bird song is a language, and as nuanced as any other. The sounds are produced by the syrinx – it's a vocal organ the size of a pea, which sits at the junction of the trachea and the bronchi in the lungs. The structure of the syrinx differs with each species, thereby creating such an enormous range of sounds and songs.
If birds sound like their singing for their lives it's because they actually are. Living for only a couple of years their songs earn them a place to live and a mate - both vital for continued success of their species.
Sadly some of our bird song has fallen silent as song birds have seen dramatic declines due to climate change, intensive farming, pollution and habitat loss. Yet the sound of morning without such beautiful bird song seems unthinkable.
Connecting with nature is vitally important for us as human beings on all levels, and listening to bird song is no different. It's been shown to be good for our health, calming and therapeutic - the sound of bird song actually makes us feel happy.
So next time you're awake just before first light, take a moment to listen to the sounds of the song birds bringing in the new day, singing like their very lives depended upon it - which of course it really does.
From recycled bird feeders (made from yoghurt pots!) to beautiful bird nest boxes, take a look at our Wildlife Collection for some inspired gift choices for bird lovers.