“The dawn chorus is a simple and beautiful way of sharing nature with lots of people.” Chris Baines, environmentalist, broadcaster and founder of International Dawn Chorus Day
On the International Dawn Chorus Day website you can listen to a recording of the dawn chorus to get you in the mood whatever time of day it is. Here, you’ll also find listings of events taking place across the UK run by various wildlife trusts. You can also register your own event on the site if you would like to encourage your local community to come together in celebration of the birds.
The dawn chorus is also known as the ‘hymn to the day’ and I can’t think of a more fitting description. Research suggests that the dawn chorus is in fact a territorial battle hymn, with birds most active at this time of day and defending their territories. It is also a way of calling a mate. Songs carry much better at this time of day, and again at dusk, when the air is stiller and there is less background noise. The dawn chorus carries twenty times better than birdsong at noon.
There are about 4,000 true songbirds in 53 different families: varying from the simplest, such as the two-note song of the Great Tit to the 103-note phrase (sung in as little as 8.25 seconds!) of the wren. Like our vocal chords, birds have something called a ‘syrinx’ but some birds can actually sing two notes at the same time.
On the BBC Breathing Spaces website, there are plenty of resources to enjoy the dawn chorus with your family, including bird bingo – you can listen online to identify all the main stars of the dawn chorus and then tick them off – to tips on ensuring the birds sing right outside your window!
You might choose to celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day by getting the whole family up early and setting off at first light to find a peaceful breakfast picnic spot (pack the picnic the night before to save early morning flapping!). The technical amongst the kids might want to record the dawn chorus in order to work out who’s singing what back at home later. Perhaps the idea of getting everyone up, dressed and out the door at dawn seems like waaay too much of a stress; instead, you could open the window and enjoy it from bed together. Or maybe it’s a special gift to you yourself to get up early, make a cup of tea and sit out in the garden in the company of the awakening world. Can’t think of a more restorative and heart-centred way to start the day!