Word of the Day

dawn chorus

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the sound of birds singing at dawn

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The compound noun dawn chorus is a combination of the nouns ‘dawn’ and ‘chorus’. Its first recorded use dates from the 1920s.


This column is a bit late to the term dawn chorus as International Dawn Chorus day was last Sunday, the first Sunday in May. The aim of the Day is to encourage people to get up early and go out to hear the full splendour of birdsong at dawn. The birds do, of course, sing for quite some time before and after the first Sunday in May, so it is not too late to experience the wall-to-wall sound of our avian friends getting geared up for the day ahead. While the reasons birds sing are well known, it is not entirely clear why they sing more loudly in the early morning. There are various theories, including the fact that it is still too dark to search for food or be spotted by predators; another theory is that sound carries further then because of the lack of other noise and the density of the air at that hour. While the first birds start singing before sunrise, the most intense sound is over the half hour on either side. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where the dawn chorus happens, you don’t even have to go to a lovely bluebell wood to hear it; you can just open a window or step outside.


Taking place on the first Sunday of May, International Dawn Chorus Day is the worldwide celebration of nature’s greatest symphony.”

Related words

birdsong, chirp, trill, tweet

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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