Birds on your doorstep
"Have you noticed how much more cheerful and vocal people are with one another when the sun is shining and it is a nice day?
A common enough observation perhaps, but I am convinced it also applies to birds.
Ornithologists say, quite correctly, that birds sing to attract a mate, repel rivals and to establish and maintain a breeding territory. There is no denying that such is the primary purpose of song, but this function can only normally apply in spring.
In autumn most birds are neither attracting mates nor concerned with nesting territories.
True, there are exceptions: ducks are starting to display and pair off, while male and female robins have a special autumn song to establish their winter (non-breeding) territory – unusual among birds. But the vast majority of species are moulting, absorbed with migration processes, finding their winter habitat and food supply, and generally getting ready for winter – a time of survival of the fittest.
Why then did I hear skylark, wren, robin great tit, blue tit, starling and dunnock singing today?
The answer is simply that, unexpectedly, the sun was shining in a blue sky and it was an unusually mild day. The birds felt good. Like us, they enjoy the sun, and one can often see them sunbathing, lying on their side with wings spread, fitfully dozing while at the same time keeping an eye out for possible danger.
But the sun also stimulates the birds to sing. True, the robin I heard may have had territory on its mind, but the great and blue tits were just picking grubs off leaves and the skylarks rising up in the sky. The starlings were singing communally, about ten of them on a chimney stack, all facing the sun. Even the rooks were gargling and bubbling as though they too were wanting to sing!
The metabolism of birds is akin to our own in many respects. Clearly they feel pleasure (and pain and other emotions) as we do, and react like we do to a spell of unexpected welcome sunshine."
Source: Berwick Advertiser
By GRAHAM BELL