Chances are, if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably been woken up by some really LOUD bird chirping in the morning. Was I right? Yeah, I understand how you feel! As a beginner birder myself, I’ve always been wondering what causes birds to wake up so early in the morning and start chirping so loudly? I did a little research online and found some answers. Here’s what I found:
Birds start chirping in the morning because they usually begin their dawn choruses in the morning. Dawn choruses are a particular cacophony of birdsong that is often heard in the early mornings typically at 4 am or an hour before sunrise. The reasons for birds to sing dawn include: (1) to attract potential mates, (2) to announce their territory, (3) to utilize the morning quiet, (4) and that visibility is not high enough for hunting yet.
Now you know why those birds are chirping so loudly in the mornings. I actually did deeper research, so read on to find out more on the reasons why they are doing so!
Birds Chirping In The Morning: The Dawn Chorus
Now you may or may not have realized this but birds tend to chirp non-stop in the mornings. Well, it is so commonplace around the world with most daytime birds, that there is actually a term for all the birdsong in the morning: the dawn chorus!
If you’ve never heard of this term before, let’s examine what the words mean. Dawn represents the first light of day and the chorus represents the bird songs of chirping that you hear! Fascinating isn’t it? Don’t worry people all over the world experience the same kind of loud chirping in the mornings as you do! Now, although birds also sing their songs throughout the day, they choose to sing louder, livelier, and more frequently in the mornings.
International Dawn Chorus Day
Here’s a fun fact, just for you. Do you know that there’s such a thing as an international dawn chorus day? Well, regardless of whether you find it melodious or annoying, there are people out there who just find it so peaceful and relaxing that they dedicate a day to just intentionally wake up to hear the dawn chorus! The International Dawn Chorus Day is held annually on the first Sundays of the month of May.
I found some interesting videos of birders who actually celebrate this day. Here, have a look:
Also, here’s a livestream of the International Dawn Chorus day from places across the UK:
What Time Do Birds Usually Sing Their Dawn Choruses?
Okay, so now that you know that the loud chirping of different birds in the mornings is known as the dawn chorus and some people celebrate it on a certain day. Now you must be curious as to what time do they actually wake up to start these dawn choruses! Maybe you’ve even been woken up by them!
Birds usually start singing their dawn choruses typically at 4 am or an hour before sunrise. I’ve actually written another article with more details and the factors that affect the start time of birds’ dawn choruses. You can read the article here.
In a study of North American birds, scientists have found that American Robins began their songs earlier when the temperature was lower and when it wasn’t raining in the area.  In another study by experts, it was found that the White-browed Sparrow Weavers began to sing earlier when it was a full moon and when it was just above the horizon.  In addition, more studies found that birds tend to sing earlier on warmer mornings as there might be more potential for insects to be more active when the temperature is warmer. 
Feel free to check the above journal articles out for more information on what affects the dawn chorus start times!
What Do Birds Sing The Dawn Chorus For?
After knowing so much about the dawn chorus and the time that it starts, you might be as curious as I am when I wondered: ‘What on earth do they sing so much for? Wouldn’t that be a waste of energy?’ And so, I did a little digging to find out some reasons to share with you here:
- To Attract Potential Mates
- Birds typically wake up in the mornings and begin their dawn chorus to announce their presence to their potential mates. A loud birdsong in the morning of spring can represent the vitality and fitness of an individual bird to their potential mate. You can think of it as a singing contest, where the bird that can sing the loudest and with the sweetest melody wins the girl/guy of their dreams!
- To Announce Their Territory
- Beyond just attracting potential mates, a loud birdsong can also act as a form of deterrence and declaration of competition among rival birds of the same species. Some birds can be very territorial and just by singing their birdsong, they are essentially putting themselves on the market!
- To Utilize The Morning Quiet
- Some morning people (not me) really like the morning quiet, and so do birds who sing a lot in the morning. This is because there is less noise pollution in the mornings as compared to the day when the rest of the world is making their noise and going about their hustling and bustling during the day. Before the world wakes up, birds like to sing their songs in the quiet mornings, when their songs will be carried more easily across the crisp morning air to their potential mates or rivals.
- Visibility Is Not High Enough For Hunting Yet
- As the name ‘dawn chorus’ suggests, the first light has just begun and there isn’t nearly as much visibility and lighting yet. As lighting needs to be bright enough for birds to begin their hunt, they simply can only begin announcing their presence, before they begin hunting for breakfast.
Now you know why birds begin chirping so loudly in the mornings do you? Well, there’s nothing you can do to stop them, so I’m hoping that you’ve at least found meaning to why they wake you up so early with their loud chirps and songs today! Hope this article has been helpful to you, and please do reach out to me if you have any questions, I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for reading to the end and happy birding!!
- Henwood, K., & Fabrick, A. (1979). A Quantitative Analysis of the Dawn Chorus: Temporal Selection for Communicatory Optimization. The American Naturalist, 114(2), 260-274. Retrieved May 4, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2460222
- York JE, Young AJ, Radford AN (2014) Singing in the moonlight: dawn song performance of a diurnal bird varies with lunar phase. Biol Lett 10 (in press)
- Bale J, Masters G, Hodkinson I et al. (2002) Herbivory in global climate change research: direct effects of rising temperature on insect herbivores. Glob Change Biol 8:1–16