The dawn chorus of spring birds

PUBLISHED: 09:18 01 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:55 20 February 2013

A song thrush doing what comes naturally

A song thrush doing what comes naturally

Natalie Boxshall, RSPB volunteer, wakes up to the sweet symphony of April

The birdie song

Natalie Boxshall, RSPB volunteer, wakes up to the sweet symphony of April

April is a month with a loud soundtrack. Increasingly, we will be lying in our beds in the early morning listening to the choir of voices singing in harmony outside. The chorus builds from a lone voice to a wave of competing singers all desperate to be the one with the X Factor.
Males use their voices to secure territory borders, and although at this time of year a males territory is already well established, he cannot afford to fall silent, as this would risk the chance of losing his mate! This is certainly one of the key reasons for the voracious music-making which can last right through the summer.

Various reasons have been suggested for the early morning karaoke sessions. For great tits, it is the most fertile time of day for females, so it makes sense to be singing your love song when you have the greatest chance of success. For others it may simply be a time of the day when there is not enough light to be out looking for food, so naturally its a good time to practise your tune and reinforce boundaries. Either way, I quite like waking up to the beautiful symphony of song in my garden and the sound is certainly a lot sweeter than the ear-cracking buzz of my alarm clock.

It is also at this time of year that soloists tend to form duets, as birds turn to the task at hand nest building. From mud to grass clippings, to twigs and moss, garden materials are being ferreted away to form weatherproof exteriors and lush interiors for birds all over the country. Nests provide the all-important shelter from predators and the weather for the whole family, so design is crucial.

Like humans, when it comes to nesting, it all comes down to location, location, location the most agonising part of the nest-building process appears to be deciding on the right site some prefer large dominating nests, while others prefer discreet nests accessed only by secret pathways.

Of all the places a bird can nest, holes in trees are by far the most popular. They offer everything a bird needs: concealment, shelter and confinement for the eggs and chicks. A whole range of birds, including owls and tits favour holes in trees as their ideal roosting spot.
Others, like starlings and house sparrows, have learnt to take advantage of holes in roofs to make their nests and with the exterior taken care of. All they need to worry about is lining the interior with moss or grass to complete the renovation. This, of course, takes less time than building a whole nest from scratch which leaves more time for singing, feeding and most importantly, mating.

So, while you are relaxing in bed tomorrow morning listening to the avian chorus crescendo, think of all the wonderful nest-building and interior renovations that are taking place all around us, and why not see if you can spot any of your garden birds gathering the all important building materials or checking out potential locations?

Making the countryside better for wildlife is a key part of our Letter to the Future campaign. Please log on to www.rspb.org.uk/letter to add your signature.

The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Log on to
www.rspb.org.uk or call us on 0121 616 6850 to find out more or to join us.


Interested in nest building?

All this nest building takes time and energy from birds. The less effort that they have to put into collecting nest material, the quicker they can get settled into egg-laying and rearing a brood.

Here are some tips on things you can do to help birds nesting near you:

Leave out natural fibres and pieces of plant materials for birds to collect. Place these in a hanging plant basket or nearby bush to make it easier for the birds to collect nesting material quickly
House sparrows prefer to collect nest material from within a few metres of their nest. They use straw, grasses, fur, hair and other natural materials to make their nests, so provide some when you can
Starlings use fresh cut green leaves from spring pruning of shrubs. They may also use moss raked from your lawn, fur, hair and wool
House martins, song thrushes and blackbirds use mud in the construction of their nests. A small, wet, muddy patch in your garden, such as a muddy puddle or edge of a pond, may make it easier for them to build a nest, particularly if it has been dry and there are no other nearby sources

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