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Why Birds Sing

Not just for the fun of it!

Why do birds sing? Ornithologists have learned that the longer hours of light that come with spring trigger the release of hormones in birds. These hormones prompt the enlargement of the birds' gonads which, in turn, stimulate male birds to sing. Male birds - like this Black-headed Grosbeak - can then attract mates and fulfill nature's imperative to engender new life. Spring. Song. Romance!

Full Transcript

Why Birds Sing

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote!

[From the ‘50s pop song - “Why Do Birds Sing?”]

Why do birds sing? I wonder about this every spring. Especially when I hear a Black-headed Grosbeak scat-singing. [Black-headed Grosbeak song] The question has been around a long time, and many have taken a crack at it – ancient philosophers, Romantic poets, Charles Darwin, even Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers [Reprise pop song]. We can narrow the question a bit: what is it about spring that incites birds to sing? [Black-headed Grosbeak song]

Frankie Lymon was on the right track [Reprise pop song very briefly]. Modern science still ties spring bird song to the romantic urge. Longer hours of light in spring stimulate a male bird’s hormones, in turn inciting it to sing. And singing attracts females.

Here’s what some of the lucky female birds get to hear: [Fox Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, Fox Sparrow, HouseFinch, Black-capped Chickadee, House Finch]

[Black-headed Grosbeak]

Song of the Black-capped Chickadee recorded by Naturesound, M. Stewart
Other featured bird songs provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.  Black-headed Grosbeak recorded by Thomas G. Sander; Fox Sparrow recorded by L.J. Peyton, Black-capped Chickadee; House Finch recorded by G.A. Keller.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to   March 2018/2020   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# spring-05-2008-03-07- spring-05b-2009-03-27-

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