AROUND SLOVAKIA

Returned migratory birds to sing till June

Staré Hory

The last flocks of migratory birds returned to the forested mountainous regions of the Low and High Fatras this month and, according to Miroslav Šaniga, a researcher for the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Staré Hory, their return has resulted in a "sweet symphony" that can be heard from pre-dawn till dusk.

The earliest rising singer, Šaniga said, is the capercallie (Tetrao urogallus) which begins its unique song hours before dawn at half past two. The robin redbreast (Erithacus rubecola) is the second to contribute music at four in the morning and is followed by a band of birds at dawn, including mistletoe thrushes (Turdus viscivorus) and blackbirds (Turdus merula). The last participants in the "mighty morning symphony", he continued, were those species which bed-down in tree hollows. Šaniga explained that every bird species is "programmed" for a certain light threshold which, once being passed, inspires the birds to arise and immediately start singing. Since light penetrates tree hollows later than nests, tits (Paridae family), wood-peckers (Picidie), nuthatches (Sittidae) and tree-creepers (Certhia familiaris) rise and sing later than most of their counterparts, with the lone exception of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), perhaps "the laziest bird" in the region, which doesn't begin singing until full daylight.

The music of the Fatra birds can be heard in the region until mid-June, Šaniga said, when the bird's feathered suits begin to transform, leaving them so exhausted they are simply unable to sing. Another reason for the hush, he added, was that new-born baby birds will require food and the parents will be too busy providing for the young ones to belt out any more tunes. "A cuckoo does not cuckoo after the mid-summer night," Šaniga pointed out.

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