We have two ears and one mouth in order to be able to listen more and speak less. In the spirit of what is currently happening all around the world, listen to the elderly and the frail and stay home. But since it’s spring and new life stirs, you’ll also be faced with an opportunity you can only experience on our planet and nowhere else in our solar system or even in our galaxy: you can listen to the morning choir and everyday soloists of the bird world.




Birds sing for two main reasons: to chase away their competitors and to attract their mates. If you hear a bird sing, you can be almost sure it’s a cock. The choir you're listening to in the morning is therefore an all-male choir.

What is birdsong? It’s a method of communication. Birds sing to tell their competitors to go away, and their future partners to come hither. They use this polite and joyful method to tell each other it’s better for the opponent to leave without stopping...or else! They pause while singing, to check whether a competitor or a potential mate is nearby. Through time, their singing has been shaped by their environment, just like with rappers on the coast of the United States, or yodellers in the Alps.

Even though my grandfather was not a yodeller, they say he sang like a nightingale. Me, I sound more like a sparrow when I sing. We all know the proverb “to sing like a nightingale”, but few are those who actually know what that sounds like.



A nightingale can sing up to 300 different love songs. On the other hand, we also have some birds without any imagination who keep on repeating the same old song. A chiffchaff, for example, can sing the same song up to 500,000 times in one season. 

We can recognise birds according to the song they sing. Here is the proof if anybody doubts that. We all know the song of at least one bird. Here’s one you’ll definitely recognise.



Through song, birds can communicate better. It makes it possible for them to hear each other at large distances and through dense branches. The sound travels all around, past corners and bends. The bittern is one of the birds whose song reaches the farthest. Their sounds are also extremely loud, not far from the loudest sounds in the world.



Birds use the type of sound which travels best according to the environment they live in. Running water causes numerous noises, which is why it is hard to hear other sounds in its vicinity. There, high-frequency sounds are the best.



Another strategy of how to transmit sound far away is to fly high and sing as you're approaching the ground. This strategy is mastered by a bird with my favourite type of song: the woodlark.



They don’t only sing to communicate with their peers, however; through song, they also communicate to their predators that they’re extremely fit and will therefore be difficult to catch. Only a healthy, fit bird can sing even while being chased by other birds. People can use numerous devices in order to improve and strengthen their voices. Some of them even sing by playback. Birds don't cheat while singing. They cannot make themselves larger, stronger, better or prettier than they actually are. Only the birds with a considerable surplus of energy and strength can afford to sing loudly and for a long time, in order to chase away all competitors and attract the prettiest mate.




The best time to listen to birds sing is in the morning. Nobody knows why. Maybe it’s a way for the strongest cocks to show that they can still sing loudly after a wild night out. Sometimes, it’s better for some species to sing early in the morning, while others wait for a bit, especially if their songs are alike. This makes for a perfectly harmonised morning concert.

The brown thrasher that lives in the United States knows about 2000 different songs. In Slovenia, you could compare it with a song thrush.



The sedge warbler produces one of the longest and most complicated songs. It sometimes happens that a cock never repeats the same song with the same elements at the same spots. Starlings are even capable of beatboxing.



Some migratory birds such as marsh warbler have an international repertoire of songs. While in Africa, they learn some of the songs of the birds who live there, and include them in their repertoire. This is how a cock “explains” to a hen where he spends his winters and what resorts he’s been to.

We should never take birdsong for granted. We all admire and poetise it, but our selfish and thoughtless acts can soon make numerous songs disappear forever. Even in Slovenia. We would be hard-pressed to hear the song of a lesser grey shrike or of an ortolan bunting.



Birds have been composing and singing songs since long before the Neanderthals were playing their flutes. Let’s listen to birds and learn how to nicely tell someone to go to hell, or how to attract someone. Let’s listen to birds and be responsible: it’s the only way to keep their singing from going quiet forever.


Crested tit.






Siskin and goldfinch in background.


Reference: XENO-CANTO - Sharing bird sounds from around the world

Aljaž Rijavec
Aljaž Rijavec

I am an older version of a totally autonomous humanoid manufactured in the previous century. I’m bored on cloudless days and days without sunshine. I love mountains of data and finding meaning in nonsense. I have no free time. I don’t have any hobbies either; all I do, I do “for real”. I’m interested in all that is biotic or abiotic. I try to be a multifunctional device, and I love it.

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