The Dawn Chorus: Urban Style


Sometimes underappreciated, the urban environment can provide habitat for wildlife. Gardens and parks and even nature strips offer food and shelter through native plants and trees as well as palms and even urban infrastructure. This short video provides a glimpse of a “dawn chorus” in the urban environment.

You may have heard of the dawn chorus where scores of wild birds announce their presence through song just before and after sunrise. Even in urban areas we get examples of this behaviour where birds reinforce their territories and bonds with their mates.

The players (L - R) Little Wattlebird, Rainbow Lorikeet, Little Corella

The first visitors to the garden are a pair of Little Wattlebirds with the male announcing his presence with his distinctive call. Within minutes the pair are joined by Rainbow Lorikeets who watch on and join in with their own twittering.  

Recent summer rains have seen a proliferation of seed providing fodder for Little Corellas. Unlike most other birds, these charismatic corellas like to play. A street-side lamp post provides a great meeting place for some of the flock. The opportunity to explore and frolic in nearby palms seems too good to miss, especially with the chance to tear at the fibre of the fronds and generally mess about with their mates.

A final call from the Little Wattlebird and then, within minutes it’s all over and the morning settles down, ready for a typical day in suburbia.

Impact of urban settings on the "Dawn Chorus"

An animal chorus could is described as a time where multiple individuals and species call out. Many birds are well known for their engagement in a "dawn chorus" in order to provide a location, information about their territory or reinforce a bond or advertise for a potential mate. This behaviour is not restricted to birds with a number of fish, mammals, insects and crustaceans exhibiting similar behaviour.

For decades, scientists across the world have been studying the impact of the urban environment and in particular light and noise pollution on this behaviour.  Along with other human impacts (e.g. chemical pollution, higher temperatures and changes in habitat structure) scientists are searching for the impacts of urbanisation on the behaviour, physiology and ecology of birds in urban environments.

In many cases birds have adapted to the key disruptions of artificial light and urban noise (e.g. traffic) as illustrated in the video above. However, further research is still needed, particularly in tropical and subtropical climes in order to understand the full impact of urbanisation on wild birds (Marin-Gomez and MacGregor-Fors, 2021).

In the meantime we can still enjoy the behaviour of our urban birds, especially if you get up at the crack of dawn!!!

Further reading

Marin-Gomez, O. H., and MacGregor-Fors I., (2021)., A global synthesis of the impacts of urbanization on bird dawn choruses. Ibis163  pp 1133-1154 

Further notes on the Dawn Chorus:

The dawn chorus can start at different times, usually 30–90 minutes before sunrise, depending on the species of bird and season. The intensity of the chorus will be loudest during the breeding season.

Because it is generally males that do most of the singing and calling, the most likely explanation is that they are reconfirming their territories and letting females know of their whereabouts.

Also, as light levels are poor this early in the day, foraging is not practical, and so males are taking the opportunity to warn off rival males while females are listening out for a suitable mate based on song quality.

Professor Les Christidis

Downloaded 31st Jan 2022 from Why do birds sing in the morning? - Australian Geographic



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