Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Why do birds sing?

 Swans sing before they die;

‘Twere no bad thing

Should certain people

Die before they sing.


That’s by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and how right he was – about people, anyway, if not about swans.

 But why do birds sing?

 Well, if we exclude all the various squawks and chirrups birds make and just stick to the proper song, there seem to be two main reasons. Firstly, to advertise their dominion over their territory; and secondly...

 ...well, the secondly is more interesting.

 In the Autumn our robin (the one which hops around my feet when I’m trying to dig the garden, I mean) spends a lot of time sitting on a branch and singing softly. It keeps its beak closed as it sings, and, I don’t know, it does sound...contented.

Robin In Winter
<a href="">Robin In Winter</a> by Vera Kratochvil
Can I prove that it’s singing because it’s happy?

 No, of course not. I can’t prove anyone’s happy, ever. Not even me. But why should the noise it makes sound happy?

That makes no sense at all.

 Does it?


  1. Of course your robin is happy...and what has he got to be unhappy about? He's around your feet and you doubtless give him lots of lovely food! The idea of a depressed robin is a contradiction in terms...they are such happy-shaped birds, aren't they? My robins are also much pampered and very happy indeed.:)

  2. The North Wind doth blow
    And we shall have snow
    And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
    He'll sit in a barn
    To keep himself warm
    And hide his head under his wing
    Poor thing.

    But despite all this, yours is the best way, Adele. Why shouldn't they be happy, indeed.

  3. That was in the days before UBIQUITOUS feeders and lots of nice hanging suet balls. I contend that present day robins have lots less to hide their heads under their wings about these days! Life has improved for them too!