Ten dawn chorus birds to listen out for

Ten dawn chorus birds to listen out for


Posted 26th Apr 2018


As the sun rises the sound of birdsong fills our gardens and brings the countryside to life. Here are ten wonderful performers to listen out for: most are found in the garden but you will have to head further afield for some of these special soloists.

1 Blackbird

They say the early bird catches the worm but at this time of year he also gets to kick off the dawn chorus in style. Perched high on a tree, lamp post or TV aerial the handsome blackbird will sing his rich, flutey and melodic song at the very first faintest glimmer of daylight. 


Image courtesy of RSPB Images / Chris Gomersall

2 Song thrush

Sadly a rare sight and sound in gardens now this popular spotty-breasted snail-smasher is also a talented vocalist. Listen out for notes and phrases repeated three or four times as the thrush defends his patch and serenades his mate. Keep song thrushes and other garden birds happy by providing a dense shrub or climbing plant for them to nest in.


Image courtesy of RSPB images / Paul Chesterfield

3 Great tit

Although early May is the peak of the dawn chorus the persistent great tit will have been singing his two-note “tea-cher, tea-cher” tune for months. If you hear this see-saw song look up and you should see the black and white head and lemon yellow front of this garden favourite.


Image courtesy of RSPB Images / Ray Kennedy

4 Wren

This wren has an incredibly loud song for such a tiny bird. It’s a busy time of year for this feisty little brown bird with its cocked tail. First, the male wren will build the outsides of several nests. Then the female will carefully choose the best of these to line with soft feathers and lay her eggs in.


Image courtesy of RSPB Images / John Bridges

5 Chaffinch

The chaffinch song is a charming chirpy series of descending notes ending with a little flourish. Originally a woodland bird, the chaffinch is now a frequent garden visitor so this tune might be a familiar one. Like people, these birds have regional accents so a Scottish chaffinch will sound slightly different to its Cornish cousin!


Image courtesy of RSPB Images / Andy Hay

6 Willow warbler

They’ll have spent the cooler months in sub-Saharan Africa and just completed the incredible 8,000km (5,000m) flight home but the willow warblers are back and ready to take the stage. Their song is a sweet, high pitched and tinkling descending series of notes. They may be well camouflaged among the leaves with their grey-green and light coloured feathers.


Image courtesy of RSPB Images / John Bridges 

7 Chiffchaff

This little olive-brown bird looks similar to the willow warbler but you can easily tell them apart by their song. The chiffchaff is named after its two note song - "chiff-chaff” in the UK, or “zilp-zalp” in Germany. Chiffchaffs are one of the first summer migrants to arive back in the UK, and some even stay here all year round.


Image courtesy of John Bridges

8 Yellowhammer

A farmland bird famed for a song that sounds like the phrase "a-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese"! These are bright yellow and brown birds that live in hedgerows and eat seeds. Yellowhammers nest in hedges where the females lay eggs that have intricate lines on them: these earn them the lovely nickname “scribble lark”. They’re on the UK Red List following recent declines.


Image courtesy of RSPB Images / Tom Marshall

9 Turtle dove

The soothing purr of this dainty dove used to be part of the summer soundtrack in the British countryside, but now it’s a rare sound. Your best chance of hearing them is now in parts of East and South East England. You can find out how farmers and conservationists are joining forces to save them here: operationturtledove.org


Image courtesy of RSPB Images / Ben Andrews

10 Robin

The robin song can be heard all year round, even in the depths of winter. In fact even both male and female robins sing to defend their patches during the cold season. Robins even have a quieter version of their song, a "subsong”, which seems to be their way of practising for those all important nesting season performances.


Image courtesy of RSPB Images / Ray Kennedy

The RSPB is running a number of special dawn chorus events across the UK so you can meet our marvellous morning musicians! Find out more here: dawn chorus events 

Piece written by Jamie Wyver - lead image courtesy of RSPB Images / Grahame Madge





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