Discover nature this week as bird song at daybreak is at its peak.
The end of May is the perfect time to learn bird calls and song. The distinction between songs and calls is based upon inflection, length, and context. Songs are longer and more complex and are associated with courtship and mating, while calls tend to serve such functions as alarms or keeping members of a flock in contact.
Most song is emitted by male birds and is usually delivered from prominent perches although some species may sing when flying. Scientists hypothesize that bird song has evolved through sexual selection, and experiments suggest that the quality of bird song may be a good indicator of fitness.
Individual birds may be sensitive enough to identify each other through their call which is demonstrated by the many birds that nest in colonies and locate their chicks using calls. Calls are sometimes distinctive enough for individual identification even by human researchers in ecological studies.
Some birds will engage in duet calls, some so perfectly timed they blend almost perfectly into what sounds like one call. Tracking and Naturalist studies denote five basic types of sound: Call, Song, Territorial, Fledgling, and Alarm. Within each of these basic categories, the particular meanings of the sounds are distinguished by inflection, body language and contextual setting.
Learning to identify the songs and calls of birds is a fun and easy way to connect with nature.
To keep track of current natural events like the best time to get up early and listen to morning bird song you can get your own Natural Events Calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation.