Some birds sing. But why do they do it?

Does singing gives them any biological advancement? Like in mating, communication etc. Or they do it for enjoyment like humans? ( Might be possible!)

Edit: I have seen most birds which live close to human habitation sing; I really don't know if wild birds sing like these birds. And another good thing is that they do it usually at dawn and dusk. So, it can be a kind of signalling. I think when dawn arrives, they do it for signalling others to go for searching food, materials to make nest with etc. At dusk, they do it for signalling everyone for returning home. Maybe it's kind of an hour-bell.

It's my guess. I don't know for sure!


2 Answers 2


According to this paper:

Song Function and the Evolution of Female Preferences: Why Birds Sing, Why Brains Matter

by Stephen Nowicki and W. A. Searcy

A birds song can have two main functions.

  1. Male bird's song is used as a mating call to attract Females. Females in turn prefer birds who can sing longer and have complex songs. The quality of a birds song is an indicator of their good genes. A bird infected with parasites is considered to have a considerably low quality song.

  2. It is also used by Male birds to mark their territory. If a male bird hears another birds song it would start singing or increase the rate of its singing. Also in another study linked in that paper refers to a study where birds with punctured lungs who were unable to sing and had a hard time maintaining their territory.

And also a bird's song should not be confused with it's call. A bird's call is mostly used to alarm other birds of the flock of danger, communication and locating members of the flock. A call is less complex and more noisy.

  • $\begingroup$ But I also hear birds 'singing' (honestly, it sounds like shouting) at dusk. And if you have read the other answer, I think you know you're only talking about the dawn songs. But what about the dusk 'songs'? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 4:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Mockingbird added another paragraph to address this $\endgroup$
    – prab4th
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ Some birds do sing at dusk (European example: Blackbird, every evening). Why should singing at dusk have a different reason? $\endgroup$
    – RHA
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 9:26

There's actually info for that on the web:


quotes from easy to find web pages:

songbirds make up almost half of the world’s 10,000 bird species including warblers, thrushes, and sparrows.

Bird song is a very specialised form of bird call that, unlike all the quacks, honks and tweets we hear throughout the year, serves one function only – to ensure the breeding success of the singer, to indicate clearly that the singer is healthy and fit and ready to breed.

It's largely a boy thing, designed so that other females of the same species are attracted and males of the same species are repelled. Bird song is most highly developed in a group of birds called passeriformes. Don't worry, we are surrounded by them, wrens, robins, blackbirds, song thrushes are all passeriformes. Some tropical birds are know to duet, with the female singing too.

Females need to know this if they are to choose the right partner. Then, the song has to say something about the health of the singer. A long, loud song for instance indicates a certain amount of stamina, a bird in good condition. Similarly with repertoire. It appears that in some species, a wide variety of sounds in a song is especially attractive to the ladies. Many species even mimic other birds' songs just to increase their repertoire, and it's not unknown for other sounds, such as cats' calls, to be included as well.

As bird song is part of the breeding cycle, most birds sing in the breeding season. This means that birds will start singing in late January and stop singing in July. They are prompted to start singing, it appears, by increasing daylight (more light sets their little hormones racing and in response, they sing). They stop singing when they start moulting, usually July time, as the last thing you want to do when your feathers start falling out and you are not quite as quick off your perch is to advertise your presence to predators. Some birds, of course, sing in winter, robin being the best known, but this is linked to defending feeding territories rather than breeding. Interestingly, in winter, female robins sing as well as males. Just as there is a seasonal cycle to bird song there is also a daily cycle, with the most intense period being at first light, the so called 'dawn chorus'. Why sing so intensely at dawn though?

First of all, male birds may die overnight if they have not been able to feed well during the previous day. So, first light is a time when when birds can announce their survival, and this advertises something of their feeding abilities to potential mates - and of course, it's important that females know if males can find food or not, especially when they will be relying on this after their chicks have hatched. Also, a side product is that birds looking for territories can hear where the spaces are and move in. Secondly, many females lay eggs at first light and immediately after this are at their most fertile. This is a time when males need to fend off other potential suitors, and as we now know, song is a key way they do this. Hence the dawn chorus.

  • $\begingroup$ Are these all quotes? You should make that clearer and add citations. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ They are excerpts yes, i read through 1-2 pages and chose the best information to edit from the BBC page and a couple of other pages titled "why do birds sing" ... i would love to spend more time on it, but considering that typing "why do birds sing" brings up 15 ornithologist zoologist pages titled "why do birds sing", i figured it was best to not take time over it beyond answering briefly and in great depth using resources that are 2 seconds of search away. searching google for 2 seconds is the minimum research necessary for a Stack question. wouldn t you say so? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ I doubt that the original authors you plagiarized would care about any of that. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ Are you having a problem? you should make that clearer and add adult behavioural credentials. Because i doubt that the comments you insinuated would make anyone care... It's the BBC, a wildlife conservation and information broadcasting governement organization that i pay and that have never cared about anything like that, just like NYC museum archives. it's the BBC. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ I thought I was quite clear: give proper attribution to your sources. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 0:39

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