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You’re having a dream, and for some reason that giant rabbit that’s about to eat you starts to sing like a bird. You wake up to find that birds are singing outside your window! Check out this SciShow Quick Question to find out why those birds sing in the morning!

Hosted by: Michael Aranda
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[SciShow intro plays]
[Text: QQS: Why do birds sing in the morning?]

Michael: You might have heard that the early bird gets the worm... but, some times of year, it seems like they sure are noisy about it. So, why are some songbirds so chirpy in the morning, before the sun’s even up? Turns out, these birds sing in the morning to get the crispest, clearest sound quality they can. But before I can explain that, we gotta get on the same page about bird noises.

A bird call is typically a short sound, like a chirp or a squawk, that all birds of the same species are born knowing how to make, to say things like “Hey! I’m over here!” or “Danger!” But the morning music that you often hear is birdsong, which is a longer, more complex pattern of notes. Usually, male songbirds sing, though scientists have found that many females can carry a tune, too. And most young birds have to learn their songs by copying an adult.

Males might sing to attract a mate, but mostly it’s to tell other males to back off their territory. So as lovely as their songs might sound to us, the message isn’t always so sweet. So, that’s why songbirds sing, what about the when?

While you might hear bird calls at any time of year, you’re more likely to hear birdsong in the Spring. And these songs are louder and more frequent during the wee hours of the morning. Scientists call this phenomenon the dawn chorus, and they think it has to do with clarity of the sound.

When the sun rises, it heats the ground and, in turn, the air. As the day goes on, the warm air rises, mixes with layers of cool air, and creates atmospheric turbulence, lots of pockets of air molecules moving around at different speeds. This turbulence interferes with the birdsong broadcast, making the sound less clear.

Since male songbirds of the same species can sing slightly different versions of the same song, clarity is key, if a guy wants to set himself apart from the others and make sure he reaches the ladies. And it’s easiest to send a clear, complex message in the morning, when there’s not much atmospheric turbulence.

Plus, singing in the morning means that a male songbird not only survived the night, but he has the time and energy to sit and sing, instead of foraging for breakfast right away. So this could also make him seem like a healthier, more attractive mate.

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