What is it that makes birds sing so loudly, so early in the morning? During the spring, we’re treated to a symphony of birdsong in the early-morning hours. This is known as the dawn chorus, which starts in March and lasts until early July. As early as 4 a.m., you may hear the sweet song of the American Robin, and as daylight emerges, more birds join in. Altogether, the little birds create a big sound in the morning.

Scientists have a few theories on why the songbirds sing with such gusto at dawn.

  • The dawn chorus coincides with the spring breeding season. While males with nests, territories and mates on their minds do sing during the day as needed, when dawn hits, they sing all at once.
  • The purpose of the singing may be partly to send early-morning messages to other birds. Singing alerts females of a strong, healthy male nearby, ready to nest. And singing alerts rival males that if they approach, they'll be chased.
  • They’re awake, but it’s too dark to forage for food, especially for those with insect-focused diets. But what they can do is stay where they are and sing!
  • For years, the belief was birdsong could travel greater distances in the morning, and birds were simply taking advantage of the greater range to send their message. But research revealed soundwaves of pre-dawn birdsong travels the same distance as noon birdsong. On the other hand, early morning is usually a time of stillness, with fewer breezes and other daytime noises that might drown out their song. So the theory was revised slightly: While the sound waves may not be traveling any farther, the morning quiet offers birds an opportune time to blast their message.

For many people, the urgent early-morning singing of birds inspires happy springtime vibes. For others, the sounds interfere with their slumber. However you feel about the dawn chorus, it doesn’t last. One day, you’ll wake up and notice the stillness.

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With its bright orange plumage in full display, tail up and beak wide open, an American Robin sings its cheerful morning song. mtruchon / iStock / Getty Images Plus.