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Wake up to the land of song

Last modified: 16 March 2016

Song thrush singing

Image: Chris Gomersall

Wales is known for many things, from the beautiful Snowdonia peaks to the sandy shores of Pembrokeshire, however there is one thing that it’s particularly famous for, and that is singing. Wales is renowned as the land of song and boasts numerous famous singers, but every morning from March to July you can enjoy a unique performance from one of nature’s most special vocalists - the dawn chorus. The dawn chorus is a melody like no other, as Wales’ finest birds warm up their voices for the greatest concert on earth. So as breeding season gets underway and our birds sing their hearts out, RSPB Cymru is outlining ‘who’s who’ in the choir in advance of the rousing symphony.

 

At times it can seem like our birds are competing to be heard but with some practice we can learn to identify the sopranos from the tenors with the running order as follows: act one - robins and dunnocks; act two - blackbirds, song thrushes and skylarks; act three - chiff chaff, chaffinch, wood pigeon and collared dove; act four - blue tits, long tailed tits, great tits, goldcrest and tree sparrows, ending with a solo performance from the nightingale.

 

Dunnocks and robins are among the earliest to warm up: to hear the first act you’ll need to be in the stalls early as they start to sing about an hour before sunrise.

 

Blackbirds and song thrushes come hot on their heels, probably because the ground is wetter in the morning so worms are more active and the ground is softer.

 

Finally, contributing to the crescendo, wrens, tits and warblers come in, with the tiny call of the goldcrest also on stage too. These late arrivals to the choral scene eat insects and are perhaps more sensitive to the chill of dawn.

 

In terms of the solo performance, only male nightingales sing alone and prefer an encore when they sing at night. They can’t rely on visual clues to attract a mate so their song is particularly important and they can’t risk it being lost among the other voices.

Eleri Wynne, RSPB Cymru Communications Officer, said: “When initially listening to the dawn chorus, it may sound like everyone is marching to the beat of a different drum, but actually the singers know exactly when to raise their voices. If you listen regularly you will start to recognise certain individual species, but similarly it’s also nice to sit back and enjoy the song in its entirety.

 

“If you do fancy learning more about who you’re listening to then now it’s your chance, even if you only recognise a couple of them – it’s still the most melodic, clever and natural piece of music you’ll hear and best of all, it’s free and happens every day!”

 

Birds sing loudly at dawn because it’s a good time of day to stay put and focus their efforts on attracting a mate. With less background noise early on, their song can carry up to twenty times as far.

 

As any Welsh choir will tell you, singing is hard work, so if you provide food, water and shelter for your garden birds this will help make their voices even stronger. There are plenty of tips available on the RSPB website if you’re unsure what kind of food and shelter the birds need www.rspb.org.uk/homes. So tomorrow morning, turn that alarm clock on a little earlier than usual, and wake up to a choir like no other.

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.

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