Why Do Birds Sing? Birding Basics For Beginners

birds sing

A western tanager singing. Photo via Flickr.

Birds sing for lots of different reasons, such as trying to attract a mate.  Here are the two main reasons that birds sing.

Anytime that I go for a walk around the neighborhood or a hike in the Rocky Mountains I hear birds. Sometimes I hear a beautiful song, but other times it just sounds like a few loud notes.  Not all bird sounds are songs and in fact not all birds even sing.  Those birds that do choose to sing do so despite the possible negatives associated with it.  This will explain how a bird song differs from a bird call and why birds sing.

birds sing

Photo via Flickr.

What Is The Difference Between A Bird Call and a Bird Song?

A bird call is usually a simple, short noise used to alert others to a threat or let other birds know its location.

A bird song tends to be longer and has a nice structure and rhythm to it.

birds sing

A lazuli bunting, a common Rocky Mountain bird, singing away. Photo via Flickr.

Birds Sing Even Though It Is Tough

Birds sing songs at all times of the day despite the fact that it alerts predators to their presence.  When a bird sings it is letting other animals know exactly where it is.  That can be necessary, but also puts it at risk of being eaten.

Additionally, it takes a lot of energy for birds to sing a song.  Singing a complex song can be difficult for the bird to do and drains energy.

Even though singing has these negative consequences, birds still sing because the benefits or potential benefits outweigh the negatives.

Two Main Reasons Birds Sing

birds sing

A red wing blackbird singing, possibly to attract a mate. Photo via Flickr.

Attract A Mate – birds sing as a way to impress potential mates and show them how smart and healthy they are.  The more complicated a song is signals to a potential mate that the bird is intelligent.

Claim Territory – Birds also sing songs as a way to both claim a territory and to warn others away from their area.