Dawn Chorus

I’m sure like many the sound of Parisian voices joined together in song as Notre Dame burned, was an uplifting moment in the face of a tragedy. It reminded me of just how wonderful the sound of life can be when many voices are raised together and that at this time of year we have a daily opportunity to hear the incredible sound of all the birds that live around us raising their voices each morning in the Dawn Chorus.

If you’ve never got up early to experience a Dawn Chorus from your garden April is the month to give it a go. Many of our resident birds may have built their first nests, laid eggs and be raising young by now but the males will still be singing a short time before and after dawn. Singing early in the morning is thought to be mainly about defending a territory but there is something amazing in hearing many different voices from a variety of species all joined together in this cacophony of natural sound every morning.

It’s worth starting to listen a good hour before dawn, often Robins will be the first to break the silence closely followed by Blackbirds. In urban areas there may only be a few species adding to the Dawn Chorus and it can be easier to pick out individual songs. Get out into a mixed habitat including woodland and throw in the many woodland species into the mix and it can be become difficult to pick out individual singers among the throng.

Blue Tit

Local RSPB Groups and Wildlife Trusts often run Dawn Chorus guided walks at the end of April or early May and if you’re new to learning bird song these can provide a helpful introduction and guide to the different birds involved.

Why so early you may ask? It’s likely that as singing is designed to attract a mate it might also attract the wrong kind of attention from potential predators so singing when the light isn’t so good may be a good strategy for remaining hidden. Dawn is also the time when territories are most likely to be visited by an unpaired individual looking for a mate or the opportunity to access a good feeding area.

Whatever the complex reasons for the Dawn Chorus it’s an experience that all garden birdwatchers should try at least once. Wrap up warm and hear the sound of Spring from your garden this month; you might discover a species you didn’t know was in the area or simply be amazed at the number of singing Robins!


Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.