The early bird isn’t after the worm

I just couldn’t quite get out of my warm bed this morning.  It was not even all that cold, but the blankets felt extra good today.  I did, finally, force myself to move, but about 20 minutes later than normal.  As a result, when I went out on my run today, the sun was already beginning to show.  A 20 minute difference brings with it a lot of light.  As I turned onto one street and began running down it, I saw an American Robin picking up a worm from the side of the road.  “Hah!!” I thought to myself.  It’s possible that I actually spoke out loud, as I’m not as good at self-editing at that time of day.  Anyway, “Hah!!  The robin and I both sleep in and it still catches the worm!”  Apparently, even the not-so-early birds can still catch worms.  Good to know.

In reality, though, those early birds (at least the males) aren’t out there catching worms at the start of the day.  They’re singing- and they’re singing in a particular way.  They’re hanging around the nesting sites of females and singing.  Singing activity, in fact, remains high for a good period in the morning and drops off as morning twilight sets in.  What happens in morning twilight?  Good question!  That’s when the females leave their nests to begin foraging.  Male robins do more singing around the nests when the females are in the nests, then they follow the females off to feed during the day.

Those males are after something entirely different at that time of the morning!!

Slagsvold, T.  1996.  Dawn and dusk singing of male American Robins in relation to female behavior. Wilson Bull.  108:  505-515


About thomasbiology

I'm an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens University of Charlotte with a background in animal behavior with an emphasis in bird song. I've got two secret goals with this blog (well, since I'm sharing them, they're not so secret): 1. To encourage people to look at the natural world around them- not just as a hiking destination, but to notice all the little things moving around them all the time; and 2. To show some of the science that relates to these little things moving around. There's some really fascinating research out there that so few people get to see.
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