International Dawn Chorus Day is on Sunday May 5, so why not rise early and enjoy a free concert like no other, says Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserves Officer Robert Morgan  

Anyone who is fortunate enough to have experienced a dawn chorus understands what a truly incredible outpouring of song it is.

Leaving a bedroom window open during late spring may induce one to listen for a moment before turning over, but to properly enjoy the chorus one must rise in the gloom of the pre-dawn hour.

Travel isn’t necessary, for even in the suburbs the sound of birdsong at sunrise in May can be an inspiration.

Just stand outside your back door with a hot cup of tea, close your eyes, take a long deep breath of fresh morning air and enjoy a free concert like no other.

Eastern Daily Press: Blackbird

Our resident birds will have been singing since March, but by May they will have the vocal accompaniment of our summer migrants and your garden, or local park, could find the chiff chaff, willow warbler or blackcap joining the chorus.

Early May is when birds are in their full voice, with the chorus fading away through June.

In spring, birds will sing off and on during the day, even late at night.

This is either to defend a breeding territory, attract a mate or ‘call-in’ a night-time migrating flock of female birds – reed warblers, and famously, nightingale do this.

Eastern Daily Press: Chaffinch

Blackbirds and robins will commonly sing at night too, particularly if there is a street lamp near.

At the risk of disappointing any old romantics, the nightingale that sang in Berkeley Square was more likely a robin!  

Why every male bird should sing together for the forty minutes or so around daybreak is still a mystery, perhaps it’s that their song carries further on the cool still air of the early morning, or that they are telling their rivals that they have survived the night and are ‘still here’, strong and vibrant.

The competition during the dawn chorus between individuals of the same species, or the need to create a unique sound unmistakeable from other types of bird, has driven them into evolving special acoustic niches.

Nature is economical and would never countenance the expenditure of so much effort if it didn’t in some way promote the wellbeing of the species, but despite the science, it is still a joy to hear. I have no doubt that far into our ancient past humanity has woken to, and drawn satisfaction from, the dawn chorus.

Eastern Daily Press: Great tit

It may be where we derived the idea of music from.

So, as a springtime early riser, the reward may be the flourish of the shivering blackcap’s song set against the rhythmic beat of the onomatopoeic chiff chaff, cut in by the bursting song of the wren – a very loud voice from a very small bird. 

The familiar robin is often the bird that both begins and leads the chorus, with its sweet, varied song, that’s cheerful in the spring, but sadder and softer in autumn.     

The bass section is provided by the deep rhythmic coo of the wood pigeon, and laying under it all is the two syllabled metronome timing of the great tit’s ‘squeaky bicycle pump’.

There is barely a garden in Britain that doesn’t play host to the ubiquitous blackbird, its rich repertoire carries deep melancholic tones and whistles that are confidently delivered, so confident as to hold a pause, then sing, then pause again, listening in that moment for a response.

Eastern Daily Press: Nightingale

Weaved in is the jangling keys of the greenfinch, the cascading waterfall of the chaffinch and the agreeable little ditty of the dunnock.    

It would be nice to imagine the dawn chorus, performed during the tranquillity of the early morning, as being an expression of pure joy, rather than sung with the desperate purpose of finding a mate or claiming a territory. All the same, it’s music to my ears and I’m glad that they do.    

So why not join us and spend a couple of hours enjoying one of nature’s great pleasures – the sound of vibrant bird song. Find dawn chorus events in May at

Eastern Daily Press: Singing male blackcap at Trimingham

Eastern Daily Press: Wren singing