Burien, Washington

Andy Waters, Pat Toth, Rhonda Ham

We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.

Burien, Washington

15858 First Avenue South #106
Burien, WA 98148

Phone: (206) 241-3201
Fax: (206) 241-3741
Email: Send Message

Store Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Located near Trader Joe's at the Five Corners shopping mall

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Mewsings from Millie

Hello & welcome to my mewsings!

If you know me, you know I like to talk. My people will ask me questions and I almost always answer with an appropriate mew or meow. They must understand me because I always get what I need.

Well, I've learned that birds "talk", too! Through songs, calls, chirps and tweets, birds send out alarms, declare territory, look for and attract mates and greet the day.

Bird song is most highly developed in a group of birds called passeriformes. Basically, this means "perching bird". Wrens, robins, blackbirds and thrushes belong to this group which is enormous. Around 5,400 of the world's 8 - 9,000 species are passeriformes and all of them sing - differently.

Each species has its own signature song. Some are basic chiff-chaffs but many are rich and complex. The Red-winged Blackbird and Swainson's Thrush come to mind.

Each song is different because initially it has to identify the singer's species. Then, the song has to say something about the health of the singer. A loud, long song could indicate a strong, healthy bird. Other males upon hearing this robust outburst may choose to seek space and females elsewhere. In some species, a wide variety of sounds in a song is especially attractive to females.

Birdsong is part of the breeding cycle. Most birds sing in the breeding season starting in January and stopping in July. Increasing daylight during this time prompts birds to sing as more light sets off their hormones. In response, they sing.

Birds stop singing when moulting begins. This makes sense as a male wouldn't want a female to see him when his feathers are falling out and wouldn't want to announce his presence to predators when he doesn't have his usual strength and energy to escape.

Some birds, like robins, sing in winter. This is to defend feeding territory, not for breeding. Interestingly, in winter, female robins sing as well as males.

Birdsong also coincides with a daily cycle. The most intense period is at first light, the "dawn chorus". If a male bird had not been able to feed well the previous day, it may die during the night. It sings to announce, "I have survived because I am excellent at finding food and will be a good provider!"

Also, many females lay eggs at first light and after this are at their most fertile. Males need to fend off other males and they do this with song.

All in all, although a lot is known about birdsong, the study of it is quite a new science. It will be exciting to see what is discovered in the future about why birds sing.

Until next time,

Millie the Muse of Mews