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.
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.