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What Time Do Birds Wake Up? (A Biologist Explains In Full!)

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Have you been rudely awoken by the birds just outside your window, chirping loudly away? Well, I have.

At the time, I thought: “What time do birds get up in the morning?”.

And so I did my own research as a biologist and found a convincing answer.

Here’s what I found:

Birds wake up at about 4 am or an hour before sunrise, which they will begin singing their dawn choruses. Birds tend to wake up whenever they sense daylight. The time that birds wake up varies a lot among different species and different environments where there is light pollution and changing seasons.

Well, we all know that birds wake up pretty early in the morning to start their morning call.

Stick around, and I’ll go into the details of what time they wake up and their annoying morning calls! Read on:

Dawn Choruses

exotic mellisuga minima bird sitting on stem in green field

If asked the question on what time do birds get up, you’ve most likely been woken up by a dawn chorus before. Dawn choruses are a particular cacophony of birdsong that is often heard in the early mornings to announce their presence and awakening.

Although birdsongs can be heard throughout the day, the dawn choruses heard in the mornings are often louder, livelier, and heard more frequently. 

Dawn Choruses are known to provide a display of vitality and fitness of the singer. Birds sing as an essential part of birdlife, announcing to their kind within earshot that they have survived the night.

As such, birds sing to attract both mates and warn others of their territory.

Birds’ Perceptions of Daybreak

The birds’ perception of daybreak is really what makes the bird wake up and start calling out their dawn chorus. Birds perceive the light in the environments around them to be an indication of daybreak, where they will start announcing their presence.

I’ve found through various sources like from online forums and websites here and here that there could be multiple factors that can affect bird wake up timings. I’ve summarized the information for your easy reading below

Factors That Influence Bird Wakeup Timings

1) Seasonal Changes

photography of small blue and brown bird

Interestingly, the seasons can actually affect the timing in which birds can wake up. Some have complained of dawn choruses earlier in the mornings during the summer and spring periods. This could be due to both temperature changes in the environment and also the sunrise timing in the region.

As a rule of thumb, in the hotter seasons, birds wake up earlier to start their dawn choruses, whereas in the colder seasons, birds wake up later to do the same.

2) Light Pollution

orange gray yellow bird on trunk

According to sources online here, scientists and experts have conducted some cool experiments on how different lighting environments affect European bird wake-up times and dawn choruses.

Interestingly, they have found that light pollution from streetlamps in cities has brought up the start of dawn singing in birds up till almost 30 minutes earlier than their normal wake up times!

In addition, experts have also found through their experiments that the light intensity of the light source near the birds also brings their wake up the timing to an earlier timing.

3) Variations Among Species

gray small bird on green leaves

As a rule of thumb, birds wake up before or at sunrise, but there are apparently many different wake-up times for different bird species all over. Here are some examples:

The red-eyed vireo, a common species in the US, starts its dawn chorus much later than most other birds. Among European birds, Chaffinches start at almost around sunrise, bluetits at around 20 minutes before sunrise, Great Tits and Song Thrushes at 60 minutes before sunrise, and robins and blackbirds starting at the earliest at 80 minutes before sunrise.

Why Do Birds Start Their Dawn Choruses So Early?

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  • Spring Breeding Seasons: The dawn choruses typically coincides with the spring breeding seasons that birds follow. Males sing in the mornings to attract mates to their nests and territories.
  • Warning off other birds: Male birds choose to wake up in the early-mornings to announce their presence to other fellow birds. This not only works to attract female birds to their strength correlated to their loudness and vitality of the song, but it also serves as a warning song to alert other males who may happen to enter the territory or approach their potential female mates in the area. Before the chase, comes the warning shot!
  • Too dark for hunting: Birds may wake up in the early mornings, but because the environment is too dark to start foraging for food, especially those hunting for insects. So, birds can choose to stay put in their nests to chirp and sing for the time being.
  • The morning quiet: In the past, it was believed that bird songs can travel for farther distances in the mornings as compared to noontimes. However, scientists have debunked this myth and lean more now toward the morning quiet. The morning quiet brings a time of stillness in the environment with lesser ambient noises and daytime noises to drown out their beautiful songs. The bird songs may not have travelled further, but they are definitely clearer in the mornings. And so, birds can take the opportunity to blast their birdsong in the early mornings.

International Dawn Chorus Day

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Do you like the dawn choruses that you hear in the early mornings? I’m sure most of you don’t, you sleepyheads! BUT, there are some who absolutely do.

They have even took the effort to officiate a day to commemorate the dawn choruses of birds all around the globe.

Check this out. The International Dawn Chorus Day is held annually on the first Sundays of the month of May.

Quite comically, on this particular, the public is generally encouraged to rise up earlier (before sunrise) to listen in to bird song. These early risers will come together in organized events.

The event first started out in a small scale – in Birmingham, England, where early risers rise to listen to dawn choruses, by the Urban Wildlife Trust (now The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country). Since then, the movement has caught on and spread to all parts of the globe.

Ever since, the movement has caught global attention and spread internationally.

Check out the following videos on the International Dawn Chorus Day out!

A montage of British Dawn Choruses:

What Time Do Birds Wake Up In Winter?

Birds wake up at about 7 am in winter, which they will begin singing their dawn choruses. Birds tend to wake up whenever they sense daylight. The time that birds wake up varies a lot among different species and different environments where there is light pollution and changing seasons.

Some Final Thoughts

Now that we all know what time birds get up in the mornings, learnt a little about their dawn choruses, and have heard the sweet birdsongs on International Dawn Chorus Day video, it’s time for you to decide. Do you now love or hate birds waking up in the early monrings?

My Recommended Birding Resources:

Hey there, Justin here!

Here’s a list of all my favorite resources, products, and brands I trust and love.

My Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binoculars: It’s a great budget pair for beginner birders. Highly valued for its price! Read my review.

Safe Paint for Bird Baths Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting bird baths.

Safe Sealers for Bird Baths Guide: Learn which sealers are safe for bird baths.

Safe Paint for Bird Feeders Guide: Learn what special care needs to be taken to paint bird feeders with the right paint.

Safe Paint for Birdhouses Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting birdhouses. (Not the same as bird baths!)

Bird Identification Apps Guide: 2 of my favorite birding apps are Merlin Bird ID, and eBird Mobile! Merlin is great for tracking and identifying birds, and eBird Mobile is great for tracking the birds sighted when birding.

Check out my resources page for the full list of resources I recommend!

Justin Chia

Justin is the founder and author of Birding Outdoors. He is a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) alumnus with a Bachelor of Biological Sciences and a former data analyst.

Now, Justin runs the Birding Outdoors blog full-time, hoping to share his deep love for birds, birding, and nature with others.

To unwind, Justin enjoys gaming and reading.

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