Fitter Twitters

Two Sparrows at sunrise

The early bird… hits the high note?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

It’s too early in the morning, but the birds are up and singing already! But why SO early?!

Well, are you at YOUR peak idol performance first thing in the morning? Jason Dinh and colleagues at Duke University thought the KEY could be…warming up!

The researchers recorded the songs of eleven male swamp sparrows from pre-dawn to noon. They rated the songs by trill speeds and the ranges of the notes.

Turns out, the birds sang BETTER as the morning went on! Warming up helped them sing faster trills and have a larger vocal range. BUT birds who sang the most had the most wobble in song quality. Just like human singers, they overstrained their vocal cords.

But what is all of this for? Love, of course! Previous studies suggest a fancy melody both attracts females and riles up other suitors.

Just another reason to enjoy some sweet tweets in the morning!

Dinh, J. P., Peters, S., & Nowicki, S. (2020). Song performance improves with continued singing across the morning in a songbird. Animal Behaviour, 167, 127–137.