Saturday, 17 February 2007

Up with the lark.

Since my biological clock wakens me early every morning, my favourite alarm call at this time of year is the Dawn Chorus. Only the male songbirds sing. Their songs are either to attract a mate or to say, “Go away! This is my territory!”

Strong males are the only ones able to sing well after a night without food, and, therefore, able to demonstrate their fitness to potential females, because it requires a lot of energy to sing extended songs. Weaker males would not be chosen because females prefer the most complicated songs.

When other males in the vicinity hear the songs, they know that the male who is singing is claiming and defending his territory, and that they are being warned to stay away. Every so often the males leave gaps in their song to listen out for the songs of rivals.

The birds sing at dawn because the transmission is better early in the morning before the world awakes. I find their singing very beautiful, quite spiritual in fact, and when I’m walking in my garden very early on a morning in Spring, as far as I’m concerned they are singing to me.

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