Wildlife enthusiasts to celebrate National Dawn Chorus Day

Wildlife enthusiasts across the country are set to rise early this Sunday to celebrate National Dawn Chorus Day 2010. By Niall Hatch.

BirdWatch Ireland’s most popular annual event, National Dawn Chorus Day, will be taking place this coming Sunday, 16 May.  This is traditionally the day when wildlife enthusiasts the length and breadth of Ireland set their alarm clocks a little earlier than usual and go out to enjoy a morning of beautiful birdsong.

Woodland and garden birds sing throughout the day, so why not just listen to them then?  Well, that is certainly a very worthwhile thing to do, but the most amazing thing about the period just before dawn is the sheer number of birds that are singing and the high volume of their songs.


People who have never before experienced a full dawn chorus in a woodland park or even a well-wooded garden are often astonished by how many birds seem to be involved.  You might think that you have a lot of birds in your garden or local park, but until you hear the dawn chorus you honestly have no idea how many are there.

Birdsong is a remarkable phenomenon.  To our ears it sounds beautiful, calming and musical.  The birds themselves, however, don’t see it this way at all. The male birds (for with most species it is the male alone that does the singing) are trying to advertise that they are defending a certain patch of territory and to attract a mate by showing that they are fit and healthy and able to provide well for chicks.  In essence, birdsong is really a form of fighting while avoiding physical confrontation, as well as a way of showing off to the opposite sex.

People often ask why it is that birds sing most at dawn.  The most important thing of all for any bird is to make sure it has enough food to eat.  Very early in the morning, before the sun is out, the insects and other creepy-crawlies that they like to eat are not yet up and about, and it is too dark for the birds to go looking for food.  They need to advertise themselves and their territories on a daily basis, so it is thought that they just get most of it over and done with at a period when it won’t use up valuable feeding time.  They can then use the rest of the day for foraging, perhaps with a bit of singing thrown in every now and again for good measure.

Singing first thing in the morning is also a good way to announce to your neighbours that you have survived through the night and are still alive and well, so they will not be tempted to try to take over your territory.

BirdWatch Ireland Branches the length and breadth of Ireland are planning a whole range of dawn chorus walks and other birdsong-themed events on and around 16th May.  All of the events are free of charge and open to everyone: you can find a complete listing at Birdwatch Ireland's website.

Of course, National Dawn Chorus Day isn’t the only day on which you can experience the marvel of the dawn chorus; the birds will be in full voice throughout early summer, and the best time to hear them is in the twilight period just before the sun comes up.