Why Do Birds Chirp at Sunset? Know the Facts
You might be used to the bird’s song at night, but what about the bird songs that accompany the soft light dusk light? If you’ve ever taken the time to enjoy a sunset amongst trees, chances are you’ve witnessed a cacophony of birds chirping in the treetops. But why do birds chirp at sunset?
Birds chirp at sunset because they are communicating with the other birds around them. Birds are sensitive to the time of day – just like every other animal (including humans). When they notice a change in their environment, they react to it by chirping. Birds sing with the changing light, and while that may sound poetically simple, it’s a scientific fact.
Let’s dig in deeper as to why birds chirp at sunset.
Why Do Birds Sing at Dusk?
Aside from nocturnal species that like to sing during the night, other birds enjoy singing during the dusky hours.
Some bird species are nocturnal and communicate with the world through sound rather than daylight sight. Other birds can be active during the day but tend to vocalize at night to attract a mate. The Northern Mockingbird is one of these. It is known to be silently active during the day and uses singing to attract a mate during the evening and into the night.
Some advantages come with the darkening of the day. There is less background noise, especially in areas closer to the cities, and there is less vocal competition with other birds.
The Rhythm of Light and Dark
The changing light influences all bird behavior, and as night turns into day and day turns into night, birds tend to make more noise in these hours. The day usually begins with the dawn chorus, as natural surroundings explode in a cacophony of bird song.
Something similar happens as the day gently concedes to the night. These occasions are instigated by what is referred to as the ‘internal clock’ within a bird.
Both the evening and morning birdsong is not as chaotic as it may sound. There is typically a flow of order, and the morning chorus will usually begin with the redstarts and the robins, with finches and sparrows and other similar birds joining in. In the evenings, the order is reversed.
Dimming Light and a Bird’s Internal Clock
Some researchers believe that birds are more active in the morning because they are awake before the light is strong enough for them to feed- so they focus on singing instead.
Dim light is classified as low-intensity light, which causes birds to erupt into birdsong. Some daytime birds become night time singers. Birds like the Thrush, Dunnock, Robin, and other similar species can sometimes be heard continuing their songs well into the darkened evening and night.
The robin seems to be one of the most active evening singers, whose song can continue long after the sun has said its final farewell. They’re one of the most common species of birds that chirp at sunset.
Why are Robins so Active in the Evening?
The American Robin is a migratory songbird that forms part of the tree thrush genus known as Turdidae. Although not closely related, the European Robin inspired the name of the American Robin due to the similarity in coloring.
The American Robin can be found throughout Canada, and Northern America and typically enjoys the winter months between Southern Canada and Mexico. If you live anywhere along the Pacific coastline, you could spot the songs of the American Robin. States Wisconsin, Michigan, and Connecticut have the American Robin as the state bird.
The American Robin is the third most active bird in Northern America, and this could be why the robin’s song is so prevalent in this part. One type of Robin is more commonplace than most, and that is the San Lucas robin that can be found in Baja, California.
Robins Chirping at Night
Although mostly active during the day, robins tend to flock together in large numbers in the evenings. So, why do the Robins sing at night? The answer to this question is still under some debate, but researchers have found that some bird species, including robins, sing more at night in urban areas because the city noise could deter them from singing their songs during the day.
Day birds sing more at night in urban areas, and the reason for this could be that the neon signs also emit a disruptive blue light that can interrupt a bird’s body clock.
While most birds active during the day retire their songs when the sun sets, the American Robin seems to become even more active after the sun has set. The American Robin is known to sing more elaborate versions of the songs chirped during the day.
In general, birds will time their songs to the intensity of light, which is why you hear them with the breaking dawn and the dusk. Have you ever noticed that the birds may begin their evening songs earlier on a grey, cloudy day? This is because the grey cloud cover brings on the dimming evening light a little earlier than usual.
Why Do Birds Chirp?
Some birds have more than one hundred songs, so it can be tricky to pinpoint just one or two reasons why birds chirp. Different bird species also chirp for various reasons, and each song can have a meaning. Generally speaking, males sing to attract a mate, establish territory, and to defend that domain. This becomes especially apparent when birds chirp at sunset.
In North American, October is when most bird species have finished their cycle of breeding and raising chicks. This is when we might hear birds singing to remind potential threats or just a friendly reminder of territorial boundaries.
Are There Birds That Sing at Night?
While most bird songs are associated with the bright light of day, or at least the dawning light of day, a handful of birds enjoy singing at night too.
Almost all animals in the natural world, including humans, are subject to The rhythm of light and dark. Most birds are active during the day, except for nocturnal species. Owls and other nocturnal birds (nightingales, nightjars, corn crackers, etc.) can be heard singing at night.
Most of these birds are migratory birds with a defined period for their songs, usually from the Spring to summer. Some other birds, such as the Reed and Sedge Warbler, can be heard singing throughout the night.
When a bird is startled at night, it can instigate a nighttime song. This is especially true for the American Robin. When a noise, such as fireworks, thunder, or even a hooter, startles a roosting bird, it can cause the bird to erupt in song.
Robins are known to be triggered by the songs of nocturnal birds. A robin will often join in the chorus when a nightingale sings.
How Do Birds Sing?
If you have ever had the privilege of listening to a bird chorus in a natural habitat, you’ll now understand the complexity of sounds that birds are capable of.
How do they achieve such volume for such small creatures?
Up until recently, research was vague, and the answer to this was primarily based on assumptions. Thanks to dedicated researchers, we can now understand how a complex song can erupt from such a small chest.
As humans, we squeeze air through a tiny gap between two vibrating flaps. These vibrating flaps are located in the larynx, at the back of the throat. In the anatomy of a bird, vocalization works in much the same way. The bird’s gap is a little further into the air canal and is located where the air tubes separate into the lungs.
This organ is called the syrinx and is the Greek word used to describe panpipes.
But that’s not all. Instead of just one set of flaps like us boring humans, birds have two sets. This makes it possible for a bird to burst into different songs and noises with each set- but at the same time! This means that birds can make two different ‘sounds’ simultaneously.
But here’s the clever bit: birds have two sets of flaps and can make a different noise with each set simultaneously. Add in the fact that some birds have air sacs surrounding the syrinx to amplify the sounds, and it is no wonder their sounds can seem so rich.
But, Why Do Birds Sing?
Generally speaking, birds will sing for a variety of reasons. Sometimes birds travel thousands of miles and arrive in their homeland for the Spring, all too eager to find a mate. But often, their feathers camouflage them well in the trees.
For example, a male willow warbler travels approximately two and a half thousand miles before it can rest and set up territory for the Spring and Summer months. The willow warbler usually finds a home in the woodlands, but the problem is that it matches the woods’ color.
While this helps to keep him safe from predators’ prying eyes, it does little to help him attract a female. So, he turns to song. Many birds, just like the willow warbler, are so well camouflaged that they rely on their songs to attract passing females.
Aside from attracting a mate, birds use songs to defend their territory and let other neighboring birds know that the surroundings are their domain.
What is a Songbird?
There is only one group of birds that genuinely sing, and these are known as songbirds. These birds are warblers, thrushes, finches, and other similar birds. But what makes a songbird different from another bird that is chirping in the changing light?
A songbird is the only bird that will practice tunes and learn specific songs. These birds can be heard practicing a particular set of chirps until they perfect the song. Other birds may sound like they are ‘singing,’ but they are usually letting other birds know their territorial boundaries or trying to attract a mate.
These birds seem to be born with these series of chirps and sounds and are not known to try to perfect these sounds, whereas songbirds can be heard practicing, developing, and perfecting songs.
Best Birds to Hear in the Evening
These are some birds to look, or listen, out for in the soft dusk light:
- Eastern Whip-poor-will
- Yellow-breasted Chat
- Barred Owl
- Common Loon
- Eastern Screech-Owl
- Upland Sandpiper
- Northern Mockingbird
We hope you enjoyed learning about why birds chirp at sunset. have a favorite bird you enjoy hearing chirp at sunset? Let us know which one in the comments below.
Fly high friends!