This spring has brought us the delights of a local blackbird, who seems to excel in singing – now I know that’s what male blackbirds do, especially at this time of year, but this one is exceptional – not only does he like to lead the dawn chorus, but he then carries on serenading us all morning long, followed by an afternoon of favourite melodies, concluded with lullabies for bedtime! He only pauses for a few brief hours of sleep, before launching himself into another day of wall-to-wall harmonies!
So, what’s with all this singing? Well, it communicates with others, helps to mark territory, warns of dangers and calls out for a mate; but as with our bird here, it’s also just for the sheer love of it!
Of course, when it comes to tuneful creatures, birds are the obvious ‘go-to’ choice – especially, songbirds (like our crooning chum) – these tuneful types include thrushes and blackbirds and then of course, there is the iconic nightingale and not forgetting the lark… we could go on; but aside for our winged warblers, what other creatures like to join in with nature’s chorus?
Let’s take a dive deep into the ocean and way, way down we will find one of the most soulful songsters of them all: the humpback whale. These giants love to sing: it’s a tuneful and effective way of communicating with other whales across the wide expanse of ocean, as their beautiful calls carry through the water for miles around.
If we come further towards the shallows, we will find the toadfish – whilst not what you’d typically call handsome, what he might lack in looks, he more than makes up for with his beautiful bopping song!
Staying in water, but this time the fresh variety, we’d find another singer: the frog. Lots of frog species enjoy a good tune and they tend to gather together to form a frog chorus. Their purpose is to call out to prospective partners and each species has a distinctive song that their audience of females can identify as that special guy!
If we emerge from the aqua onto dry land, there are plenty of other creatures who like a good tune: take the world of insects – the cicada is an obvious choice, being the world’s loudest insect! It creates that background chant that immediately conjures up images of tropical jungles and exotic locations. There’s also the cricket, who likes to strike up a good tune by way of rubbing a special structure on his wings: again, it’s all in the name of romantic serenading. Akin to the cricket, is the grasshopper, who creates his mating song by way of rubbing striations on his legs.
So far we’ve come across tuneful fowl, reptiles, insects and creatures of the deep – but are there any land mammals that enjoy a good singalong?
In fact, there are some that might surprise you: take for example the Mexican free-tailed bat – this tiny creature (no bigger than two thumbs) likes to create a tune or two to woo female bats nearby, who click back to him to show their appreciation of his musical masterpieces.
Another rather surprising songster is the mouse! Again, it’s the boys who are singing to impress the girls – but hang on a minute I hear you say, you’ve never heard a mouse sing! That’s true, because sadly their harmonious efforts are set at a pitch that’s too high for human ears to hear! But fortunately, their melodies are received loud and clear by those appreciative female mice!
Whilst it might seem that most singing is dedicated to wooing a mate, there are other uses for exercising the vocal cords: it can be a way of conveying that you’re not happy – that’s the reason for the antelope squirrel’s musicality – if he senses danger or feels threatened, he will start chanting, getting up a good rhythm with a stomping of his feet in accompaniment – the hope is that this will ward off any potential threats (hopefully his predators aren’t music lovers then!)
Of course, I have to add us to the lyrical list – humans have been singing for thousands of years – even if you don’t rate yourself in the musical stakes, singing just for the joy of, it is now recognised to be a positive boost to your mental health and general wellbeing – it really doesn’t matter if you don’t manage to hit all the right notes – just go for it and enjoy yourself! Even if it’s only a little cheesy crooning in the shower, embrace your inner diva and join in with all those other music makers out there!
All together now….