Biodiversity Ecology

A walk in the woods: When to hear the birds sing

You may associate spring and early summer as the time to wake up early and enjoy the dawn chorus. Between March and July some of our feathered friends kickstart the early morning with song to defend their territories and attract a mate. However, there is plenty of song all-year round to enjoy, and from late summer to winter, the shortening of our days means that you don’t have to get up as early to enjoy it!

Many studies have shown that listening to birdsong has a positive effect on our mental wellbeing. The melodic sound of songbirds are often pleasing to hear, and certain species can bring back positive memories from our past – which can change from person to person.

More broadly, there is growing evidence to show that spending time in nature can have a profound effect on our wellbeing, so when is the best time to spend time outdoors and enjoy the sounds of our birds?

Early bird catches the worm

At Carbon Rewild, we are continually running bioacoustic monitoring surveys to evaluate bird activity, which often includes listening 24 hours a day. By combining hundreds of hours of analysis from surveys in August, especially in our woodlands, we can understand broadly what you may expect to hear from hour to hour.

Average bird activity in August (total number of bird identifications per hour)

An hour either side of dawn remains the time with the greatest activity of bird calls and bird song in late summer and autumn, and so the early birder will enjoy the greatest chorus of all. Fortunately for those who enjoy sleeping in a touch more, there is still plenty to enjoy in the forests. Activity levels are still high (> 50% of peak activity) for the remainder of the morning. Some species, who are less resistant to the cold or feed at different times of day, will also be more active later in the morning.

There will be seasonal variance in the birds that visit our shores, including summer, winter and passage migrants who spend shorter periods of time in the country. This means that our soundscapes are constantly changing, with new species to listen out for. We have also found that woodland habitats with most tree diversity (e.g. Ancient woodland, Broadleaved woodland and native conifer forests) host greater bird diversity and activity than some conifer plantations.

Interested in experiencing some forest sound bathing? Well here’s a final tip: moving around woodland and crunching on forest floor debris can affect bird behaviour. We’d recommend trying to find a suitable spot and sitting quietly for 20-30 minutes to wait for the birds to hop or fly by.

Extra tips to attract Birds to your home

Of course you don’t have to leave your home to enjoy some feathered visits, try out a few of the following…

  • Bird Feeders: food is a great way to attract birds to your home, even outside of a window or on a balcony.
  • Birds don’t like being out in the open – the more cover you can provide for birds to perch or even make a home in, the safer they we feel
  • Think Vertically – climbers and other vertical plants are very welcoming to some species
  • Avoid being too tidy – leaving messy areas that bugs thrive in will ensure a consistent food source for birds are available. Twigs and other material can also be collected for nests
  • Leave out seeds and other bird nibbles to attract birds to a certain area, especially in hanging baskets that will ensure birds remain safer than on the ground
  • Birds need to drink and bathe too! Bird baths give birds a secure location for water in the summer when water is scarce, and in the winter, when water sources may be frozen.