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The dawn chorus is that time when, just before sunrise, birds begin to sing. One by one, then all together, their voices join to greet the new day. But which bird sings first? The timing of when a bird joins the chorus seems to depend on how well it can see in low light. So the birds with bigger eyes — like this Gartered Trogon — start to sing first.
Which Species of Bird Sings First in the Morning?
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
The dawn chorus. Just before sunrise, birds begin to sing. One by one, then all together, their voices join to greet the new day.
But which bird sings first?
The timing of when a bird joins the chorus seems to depend on how well it can see in low light. Research shows that birds with bigger eyes—and larger pupils that let in more light—start to sing before other birds.
[dawn chorus Ecuador]
In more dense environments, like the tropical forests of Ecuador, the first singers are those birds perched highest in the tree canopy, because the light hits that part of the forest first. As it spreads into the lower levels of the forest, the birds there join the chorus, too. But still, within each level, birds with larger eyes sing first.
That might be because they’re the first birds to be able to see predators, so they feel confident enough to give away their location with song.
Whatever the reason, dawn is when many birds put on their best show, singing faster, louder and more frequently than they do at other times of the day. Take a moment tomorrow morning to step outside and listen: it’s an experience not to be missed.
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Narrator: Michael Stein
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. ML 89585 Ecuador Environmental recorded by G Budney.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2019 BirdNote May 2019 / June 2022
ID# dawnsong-03-2019-05-09 dawnsong-03
and: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Handbook of Bird Biology, 2016.