Why Do Birds Chirp So Early In The Morning? Humans may be the ones to blame.

It’s nearly 3 am. You’re going to bed or you just got up to go to the washroom. Birds are already chirping outside, even though is completely dark out. Why question yourself: Why are birds chirping so early? We’ll discuss a few reasons for this article.

You may not want to blame the birds on this one. Apparently, birds have been chirping earlier lately because of the light pollution. A study suggests that birds sing significantly earlier at dawn when exposed to artificial light at night.

The higher the light intensity, the earlier the dawn chorus starts. According to the study, most species continued singing longer in lighted territories, even at dusk. For comparison, in the natural environment (without light pollution), the timing and sequence in which different species start and stop singing were consistent and predictable.

Consequences of light pollution

Besides confusing birds regarding what time it is, light pollution might bring other impacts to our feathered friends.

Changes in their diet

Fatter wild birds

Melatonin enables birds to synchronize the circadian clock to the light-dark cycle. The suppression of melatonin synthesis by artificial light at night may alter the birds’ physiological detection of day length. This leads to a hypothesis that artificial night lighting indirectly affects the timing of dawn and dusk singing by disrupting the timing of food intake. And yes, this culminates with fatter birds.

Fatter chicken and more eggs

Wild birds are not the only ones that get affected by artificial lighting. A cruel practice from the slaughtering/egg-laying industry takes advantage of artificial lighting to confuse hens.

They use light to manipulate their perception of day length, so they stay awake for longer times, and while awake, they will eat more. Fatter chicken in a faster period means that meat producers get to slaughter them earlier than usual. More profits.

Light also affects their egg-laying cycles. Hens need at least 14 hours of light to produce eggs. Even an hour or two less of daylight changes egg-laying patterns. That said, egg producers use lightbulbs on chicken coops for extra 2 hours to increase productivity, even during winter months.

This raise in productivity has consequences for the hen’s health. If the light is too bright or lit for too long, chickens will be quite stressed and that can result in cannibalism. Another and more important point is that excess of light shortens their egg-laying life. And hey, isn’t laying eggs the only reason why the egg producers keep these chickens?

Interesting Fact

When a hen is born, all her potential eggs already inside her. She can’t increase that number. There’s no need – it runs into the thousands.

Matting

More time awake also means more time to mate and that can actually be a good consequence. Increased mating success via extrapair paternity for males exposed to light pollution was also documented. Possibly linked to earlier dawn singing we mentioned earlier.

Chirping vs Singing

Birds sounds can be classified as “chirping” and “singing”. Birds chirp to indicate danger or to communicate. Calls are shorter, less rhythmic, straight to the point. Used for nearby threats or to help birds find each other. The warning chirp, for instance, will make the other birds disband and fly away in no time.

Each species have specific songs and calls, depending on the environment where the bird lives.

Here are some reasons for bird calls:

  • Announcing/defending territory (for males)
  • Group/flock cohesion, keeping everyone together (males & females)
  • Communicating with chicks (males & females)
  • Communicating with an established mate (males & females)
  • Distress/alarm, during predatory risk (males & females)
  • Warning, to repel specific intruders—other males (males)

Why do birds sing?

A song is a structured vocalization made with the purpose of attracting a mate or defending territory. Bird songs are usually longer, louder, complex, and more spontaneous. They can even have a melody.

Birds usually sing to defend and impress. Singing most of the time is related to a courtship display. Males will sing to reaffirm their territory and to attract females.

Singing is so important for birds that some of them (songbirds, hummingbirds, and parrots) have a specific part on their brain devoted to learning new songs.

Bird Mimics

Birds can be great mimics and have a wide variety of repertoire, with as many as 200 to 2000 unique sounds that they can reproduce.

They can mimic all kinds of noises, such as:

  • Cell phone noises
  • Car alarms
  • Doorbells
  • Microwave noises
  • Music, if repeated tones are present
  • Other animals: cats, dogs, other birds, frogs, predators
  • Door squeaks
  • Human speech
bird flock chirping

Birds are social butterflies

Birds are usually social animals. When your birds hear chirping, they too will chirp in return. When they are excited, active, and playing, you will hear a lot of chirps.

Birds that roost in flocks can be very noisy. Any flocking bird is prone to having a lot to say – any commentary going on where they are, what territory is theirs, where food is, where predators are, or are not. Crows even talk about tools and who annoyed them, and maybe they should go flood that person wearing a certain color t-shirt.

Roosting together in flocks is a form of protection from predators as well and solidifying social relations. Some birds do this all year and some birds do this while they are in migration. It is safer to travel long distances in a flock for some birds.

Why do birds sing at dawn?

Attracting mates and declaring territory are the two main reasons that can make up for most of all bird vocalizations. Singing in the morning is more of a solicitation/display. So, if you can sing loud and strong in the early morning before you have time to warm up and have a good hearty breakfast, the better mate and stronger defender of your territory you will be.

Territorial birds will also interact with each other using song to negotiate territory boundaries. The quality of their songs when compared to rivals can prevent an energetically costly fight.

Who doesn’t cry doesn’t eat

The young chicks have discovered, through natural selection, that constantly asking for food is the key to quick growth to adulthood and the chance to have your own babies.

Many birds that nest in colonies can locate their chicks using their calls. This identification system is essential for Emperor penguins, for instance. The Emperor penguins make a special two-voiced call that can be used for individual recognition.

baby chicks chirping

Conclusion

To summarize, light pollution can confuse some birds to think that they are in a perpetual “dawn” or “dusk” and it is time to sing to attract a mate or defend a territory.