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Which Species of Bird Sings First in the Morning?

The birds with larger eyes do
© BirdNote View Large

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.

Support for BirdNote comes from American Bird Conservancy, announcing Bringing Back the Birds, a new book exploring migration and preserving birdscapes in the Americas, with photos by Owen Deutsch.

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®

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

ID#  dawnsong-03-2019-05-09   dawnsong-03

References: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/who-sings-first-during-the-dawn-chorus-and...
and: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Handbook of Bird Biology, 2016.

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