On a day in May, around daybreak, I love to linger in bed and listen to the free concert just outside my bedroom window. It’s the “dawn chorus,” the seemingly joyful tweeting, twittering and chirping of songbirds, mostly males, that begin with the first sliver of daylight and continue until well after sunrise.
By the time the sun is up, some 20 songbird species may be in full voice in my Decatur neighborhood and others across Georgia.
“Cheerily? Cheer up. Cheerily,” warbles a robin. “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger,” sings a Carolina wren. “What cheer! What cheer! Birdie-birdie-birdie,” proclaims a cardinal in a loud, descending, slurred note.
May and early June are peak times for the dawn chorus. The nesting season is in full swing, and males, decked out in their colorful breeding plumages, are singing exuberantly to defend territories and attract mates.
Many birds will keep singing off and on throughout the day, but it’s that magical time around dawn or so that’s the best. To enjoy the avian concert, you don’t have to know what birds are singing. Just relax and listen to the multitude of eager voices belting out spirited songs as the sun rises. Some folks over the years have told me they became birders because they heard the dawn chorus.
Why birds sing so earnestly at the crack of dawn is not fully understood. But what I do know is that birdsong simply makes me happy. When I hear singing birds, I think of a simple childhood prayer that my mother taught me: “Thank you, God, for the birds that sing.” To me, there’s no better way to start the day than by waking up to the dawn chorus. The singing birds promise another beautiful spring day, and the world seems at peace, if only for half an hour.
From what I can gather, numerous other folks feel the same way — birdsong also brings them feelings of joy. Scientists have tried to prove that connection. A recent study at California Polytechnic State University, for instance, found that hikers who listened to birdsong while walking a trail have a more positive overall experience and feel greater joy.
IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon is first quarter today. Venus is in the west just after sunset. Mars is in the southwest at dark. Jupiter and Saturn are low in the east just before dawn.
Charles Seabrook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.