News article created on 5 May 2017

International Dawn Chorus Day

When birds are starting to nest in late spring the air is filled with the wonderful and greatly varied sounds of birdsong. This can go on for several weeks and is celebrated around the world with International Dawn Chorus Day.

Bird singing

Listen to the song of the chaffinch

There is a usual pattern that can be observed as to which birds start singing first, obviously this depends on variables such as weather and habitat.

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 while 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 those 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 do keep in touch with their partner 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 local canal or river to hear the birds.

Stuart Collins 

Canal & River Trust Ecologist 

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