Discover nature this week with Missouri bird songs. No one knows if birds really sing for joy, but we do know birds have other good reasons for singing.
Bird song is a form of advertisement, sending two messages to other birds of the same species. One message is a form of courtship. The singing male tells females he is available. The other message warns other males to stay out of his nesting territory. Male birds fly about and sing from different perches in their territory to announce its boundaries. This keeps the area from being invaded by competitors and protects the food for his family.
Singing peaks during spring when birds pair off and claim territories. There is great variety among bird songs, from the red-winged blackbird’s trill to the robin’s melodious warbling. Even the noisy hammering of a woodpecker functions like a song. A dedicated birdwatcher (who apparently had lots of time on his hands) observed a red-eyed vireo singing 22,297 songs within a day.
Birds are warm-blooded, and most species can fly. Many migrate hundreds or thousands of miles. About 350 species of birds are likely to be seen in Missouri, though nearly 400 species have been recorded within our borders. There are about 10,000 species of birds in the world.
As predators, birds control thousands of insect species—borers, beetles, caterpillars and more—many of which harm crops, gardens, and trees or, like mosquitoes, transmit diseases. Game birds—turkey, quail, doves, ducks, geese, and others—provide sport and food for humans and are part of the $22 billion hunting industry.
So, you might say bird song is serious business.
More information about Missouri’s soundtrack to nature can be found online at MissouriConservation.org.