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Wake up to the sound of spring and enjoy the dawn chorus - coming soon to a woodland, meadow or garden near you!  


Above: sedge warbler singing © Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

Above: robin © Isabel Bunting; woodland sunrise © Stuart Geeves (rspb-images.com)

Above, left: wren © Paul Chesterfield (rspb-images.com); right: long-tailed tit © Isabel Bunting

Above: Meadow pipit © Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)

Little Green Space March 2016

Every morning from March to July we can enjoy one of nature's miracles: the finest sopranos, tenors and baritones warming up their voices for the greatest concert on earth - the dawn chorus.


As breeding season gets underway our birds will sing at their best - and in advance of the rousing symphony, conservation charity RSPB is outlining 'who's who' in the choir.


At times it can seem like the birds we give a home to are competing to get their voice heard. But there is actually method in the madness, and with some practice we can learn to identify the singers in the dawn chorus. Here we guide you through some of the lead performers - so set your alarm and take your seats!


Dunnocks and robins are among the earliest to warm up: to hear the first act you'll need to be in the stalls early as they start to sing about an hour before sunrise. The melodious call of the robin is a beautiful sound, though, and well worth rising early for!

Blackbirds and song thrushes come hot their heels, probably because the ground is wetter in the morning so worms are more active and the ground is softer. Just a little later you'll hear the unmistakable call of the chiff chaff, as well as chaffinch, wood pigeon, and collared dove. And in moorland areas listen out for the warbling tones of the skylark.

Finally, contributing to the crescendo, wrens, tits and warblers come in, with the tiny call of the goldcrest on the stage too. These later arrivals to the choral scene eat insects and are perhaps more sensitive to the coldness of dawn.


Unbeknown to many there is also an evening performance, with a chorus at dusk, but it's much quieter, and it's easier to hear birds like blue tits and tree sparrows. They sing in the morning too, but we are less likely to notice them among the cacophony!

Only male nightingales sing alone. They sing at night, any time from sunset to sunrise. They can't rely on visual clues to attract a mate so their song is particularly important - they can't risk it being lost among the other voices.

“The dawn chorus may sound like a frantic shouting match with the most beautiful voices but actually the singers know exactly when their slot is and if you listen regularly you will start to recognise certain species habitually starting before others,” says RSPB wildlife expert Ben Andrew.


“If you don't know what those species are now it's your chance to learn even just a couple of them – it's still the most melodic, clever, natural piece of audio entertainment you'll hear, and best of all, it happens every day!


“The louder your dawn chorus the more proud you can be of your efforts to give nature a home too. If you're providing food, water and shelter, it is bound to make their voices as strong as possible!”


In areas closer to the Equator, breeding can be spread throughout the year and annual song cycles are harder to detect. But in zones further away from the tropics like Britain, birds singing is one of the most characteristic sound of spring.


Birds sing so loudly at dawn because it's not a good time to go foraging for food - so they focus their efforts at the start of the day on trying to attract a mate instead. Dawn is also a good time to hold a territory. With less background noise early on, their song can carry up to 20 times as far.


Singing is hard work, so it is usually the fittest, best-fed males who sing the loudest. In many cases, once a female has been serenaded, the male will sing less often as his work is done.


If you want to listen to a dawn chorus you need to be up before sunrise. A number of dawn chorus events are being held on RSPB nature reserves around the UK in the coming weeks. For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk.

sedge warbler

The sound of

SPRING

robin on snowy post
woodland at sunrise
song thrush singing

Song thrush singing © Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com);

wren
long-tailed tit
meadow pipit