That’s probably not the first question that comes to mind when you’re enjoying the chorus of birds as spring approaches. Whether it’s at the end of the day with the chirping of the blackbirds or when the grisollement of the larks resounds in spring, the question arises: why do garden birds sing? The answers are multiple, and will perhaps even add to the pleasure you will feel the next time you hear these melodious songs…
A little anatomy…
First of all, how do birds sing? Unlike other vertebrates, birds do not emit sound through the larynx (absent in them), but through the syrinx… an organ named after the flute of the god Pan! It is a double air passage, which allows birds to emit two different notes at the same time.
You may have already noticed it if you have the chance to regularly observe birds enjoying your garden, but the size of a bird is not indicative of its vocal power. It is common to see a large bird that can only make relatively weak and unvaried sounds. For example, birds of prey, which have impressive wingspans and are at the top of the food chain, are usually only able to make relatively high-pitched, similar calls.
Songs and breeding
One of the main reasons birds sing is to find a mate for breeding. Males draw attention to themselves, and offer females the opportunity to judge their suitability as a potential breeding male. The more powerful and clear their voice, the more the singer shows his good health, his strength, and thus, his capacity to feed a brood to the female. This is especially true for larks, where studies have shown that males with the most complex songs are the most appreciated by females.
Your garden, their territory
Song is also an important way for birds to indicate their presence. Rather than trying to locate their neighbors in the vegetation, it is easier to rely on their hearing. Thus, the limits of a territory, the potential presence of partners or adversaries, … can be understood in a few moments, depending on the density and variety of songs emitted on a given area. This is particularly the case for common birds such as robins, blackbirds and thrushes, which attract their females in this way but also declare the limits of their territory to other males of their species. The defense of these boundaries is vital, as it ensures little competition when it comes to feeding the chicks. It can take the form of a warning call, when a potential predator (cat, dog or even gardener…) is spotted.
While for birds, song serves important practical and vital functions, gardeners commonly appreciate it for its intrinsic beauty, each melody adding to the atmosphere and peace of our gardens.