News article created on 5 May 2017

International Dawn Chorus Day

Every year, when birds are starting to nest in late Spring, over several weeks they fill the air with the wonderful and greatly varied sounds of the bird songs

Bird singing

There is a usual pattern that can be observed after doing many dawn choruses as to what birds start singing first, obviously this varies on such things as weather and habitat.

Birds can vary depending on urban and rural areas but generally the first bird to start singing is the Blackbird, however in urban areas both Robins and Song Thrushs sing throughout the night due to street lighting. Once the Blackbird has started its not usually long until other birds wake up and start belting out their song. The Song Thrush sings its repetitive calls whilst the Robin, sings its nice sweet call.  Then birds such as Wrens, Dunnocks and even Woodpigeons start their various calls. By now the sun is rising fast and more and more birds are calling. Depending on where you are ducks will start quacking on water, warblers such as chiffchaffs or blackcaps will start their warbled song, swifts will start screaming in the sky. The more diverse the habitat is around you, the more quantity of different birds singing will be greater 

But what is it all about? Well, two reasons usually. The first is to tell other birds of its own species that this is his territory and to stay away.  Birds are very territorial and birds such as the magnificent Kingfisher will even fight an opponent to the death in order to defend its territory against other males. The other reason is to try and find and attract a mate. Not all birds find partners straight away, some birds also nest later than others. Birds also do keep in touch with their partner who are back at the nest however these calls are usually quieter and less regular so that they do not attract predators.

Every year on the first Sunday in May around the world, International Dawn Chorus Day celebrates the wonderful spectacle that is the dawn chorus. Events are organised all around the UK however you do not have to wait for one of them, just get up before dawn and head for your garden, park, woodland or lake to hear the birds. When studying birds, identifying them by sight is hard but identifying what bird makes what noise comes with hundreds of hours in the field studying them so do attend one of the many events across the country to get the best experience.

Stuart Collins 

Canal and River Trust Ecologist 

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