On a recent three-minute walk from the Howe Building where I work at Perkins to the Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology, I heard the clear whistle of a Cardinal, the “Cheer up cheerily” of a Robin, cooing of Mourning Doves, The harsh call of a Blue Jay, along with white-breasted nut hatches and a tufted titmouse, not to mention some high-pitched sparrow-like sounds that I could not identify. Wow, what a spring symphony!
Why do birds make all those pretty sounds, especially in the spring? Is it because they are happy that the weather will soon turn warm? I’m not sure anybody knows all the reasons birds sing, but most ornithologists seem to agree on a couple of important reasons why they sing and call. A male bird sings the unique song of his species to attract a mate. The better he sings, the more likely he is to entice a female. A male bird also sings to stake out his territory. He seems to be saying, “This is my territory. Other male birds, go and find your own territory, and stay away from my spot. I am the loudest and prettiest singer in this tree, because I am a healthy strong bird, capable of caring for a female and helping with nest-building and feeding of baby birds.”
Birds also make lots of clucking sounds and calls to stay in contact with their mates while feeding, nest building, and performing other daily routines.
Sometimes I whistle when I’m happy, and maybe birds do too. Well, actually birds don’t exactly whistle, but that’s a topic for another time.