Support
Subscribe
Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.

DONATE

You are here

The Early Bird

Does it really get the worm?

We've all heard that the early bird gets the worm. But research shows that birds dining early and heavily may lower their life expectancy. Socially dominant birds stay lean (and agile at avoiding predators) during the day, and then stoke up later, before a cold night. Subordinate birds have to look for food whenever and wherever they can find it, and carry fat on their bodies to hedge against unpredictable rations.

Sign up for the daily BirdNote podcast! Or search for a previous show.
Support for BirdNote comes from Bloomsbury, announcing the new book "Winter Birds" with paintings by artist and ornithologist Lars Jonsson. Available wherever books are sold.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
The Early Bird Gets the Worm, but the Late Bird Might Live Longer
Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote! [American Robin singing]

We’ve all heard about the “early bird” getting the “worm.” We know it as sound advice about initiative and timely action. And we can almost see that robin leaning back and tugging that recalcitrant worm out of the ground. [Comical sound of pulling and straining with a “pop” at the end] Research shows, however, that birds dining early and heavily may lower their life expectancy. A study of three North American woodland bird species found that socially dominant birds stay lean during the day and then stoke up when it’s most important – later in the day, before a cold night. At night, birds avoid hypothermia by metabolizing fat. And by staying lean through most of the day, dominant birds are more agile in avoiding predators. 

Subordinate birds have to look for food whenever and wherever they can find it, and carry fat on their bodies to hedge against unpredictable rations. Dominant birds, which can push subordinates off food, can choose when they eat and so lessen their odds of being eaten themselves. [American Robin song]

Therefore, at least in the woodland bird’s world, the revised moral might read: “Get the worm late in the day – you’ll sleep better and live longer.” [American Robin song]

Hey do you sometimes miss BirdNote on the radio?  Catch up with it online, at birdnote.org.

###

Call of the American Robin provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by W.L. Hershberger
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org     January 2015/2018     Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#011206AMROKPLU               dominance-01b

Sights & Sounds

LEAVE A COMMENT

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Related topics:

Related field notes:

Home
Shows
Galleries
More