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My first thought was that there is some artificial event that is timed that sets them off but I can't think of what that would be where I live. Is it usual for birds to sing at a particular time other than, for example, when the sun comes up?

Note: this is happening at like 4 am, nowhere near sunset or dawn. I am not certain it happens every night at this time but it seems very frequent that if I happen to be awake (which is common for me due to work) at 4 am, I hear it.

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    Can you clarify: what time, when is sunrise and sunset currently where you live, how 'exact' is exactly, is it a songbird (as opposed to an e.g. owl which you'd normally only hear at night) and is it sintging or rather an alarm sound? Also: could try the BirdNET app for song recognition, works fairly well.
    – stijn
    Mar 14 at 14:14
  • It's well worth trying to get an idea of the species - and if you specify where you are we may be able to help with that. Some sing late into the evening at this time of year, and some sing at the very first light that you might not even notice as a human unless you'd spent the night awake outside.
    – Chris H
    Mar 14 at 15:02
  • I've been out at 3 am in the middle of winter (i.e. nowhere near sunrise of approx 8 am) and seen Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) singing and fighting in the middle of cities - presumably they do this all night and day based on street lighting.
    – bob1
    Mar 14 at 20:07
  • I'm reminded of growing up, we had a sparrow that couldn't be released. Every morning it started singing and shut up at 7am. It took a long time before we figured out there was a clock radio turning on very quietly at 6am (not on a station, just static), it started signing when there was enough light and shut up when the radio turned off. Mar 15 at 2:17
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    @Yogesch by the end of the month here in the UK, the dawn chorus will start shortly after 4am (then the clocks change)
    – Chris H
    Mar 16 at 14:37

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Many functions in both plants and animals are governed by internal biological clocks of different cycle lengths: cirdadian (~24hrs), circumlunar (~28 days), and circannual (~365 days). These clocks are most commonly set or maintained by exposure to natural light, and allow plants and animals to anticipate environmental change and act accordingly.

While the common nightingale may be the most familiar night singing bird, there are quite a few that regularly and naturally do so.

In urban areas, artificial light can trick birds' biological clocks so that they sing at night even if they are not naturally inclined to do so.

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