Dear Sun Spots: I have a question about birds. Why do they sing half an hour before sunrise and around sunset too? Thanks. Enjoy reading your column. — Frances C. Miller, Lewiston.

Answer: Special thanks to Alan Seamans of the Stanton Bird Club who provided the following explanation for your question. Seaman said, the “dawn chorus,” as it is called, is done mostly by the males as a way of reestablishing their territory every morning and warning other males to stay away. He notes that it is very unlikely they do it “for the joy of it;” males preserving their territory and keeping their females to themselves is serious business and it consumes a lot of energy.

He said that there is no universal agreement among experts explaining the timing of the choruses. There are several theories about why birds start singing before dawn. The leading theory is that birds abruptly start singing at dawn because it is the best part of the day to do so.

The atmospheric conditions in the morning are believed to result in the best acoustics; low levels of ambient noise and less heat and wind allows their calls to travel further. One figure he has seen says songs at dawn are 20 times more effective than at noon. The same quieting of the air just before sunset presumably triggers the males to repeat singing, to a lesser extent, at that time also. The birds sing from an elevated spot in their territory.

Other experts disagree, arguing that, if this singing consumes so much energy, why don’t the birds wait until a bit later in the morning, after they’ve had a meal? After all, they’ve not eaten for many hours and any fat they stored in their bodies was used up staying warm during the night.

Scientists believe the singing is done so early to protect themselves from predators. In the predawn hours, there is still so little light that hawks can not focus in on them for breakfast.

This singing does not persist at the same level throughout the year. Mostly it is done during the breeding season in spring. Few birds, other than Northern Cardinals, sing during the winter.

Interestingly, young birds do not know their songs by instinct. They have to learn them by trial and error. According to an article in “Nature” magazine, young birds might actually practice singing in their “dreams!” It takes them a year or so to master their songs.

Dear Sun Spots: I am writing to ask for any assistance your readers may be able to provide a truly deserving Maine youth, Kaleb Theriault of Rumford. Kaleb is a 2008 graduate of Mountain Valley High School attending the Marine Mechanics program at UTI/MMI, 2212 W Taft Vineland Rd., Orlando, FL 32837. He has never missed a class, earned all A’s and B’s and is respected and liked by classmates, faculty and staff.

Kaleb is slated to graduate at the end of October but he has been unable to find employment despite valiant efforts since beginning classes a year ago. This is a continuous 14-month program with no vacations. Kaleb has not been home since last August and has exhausted his savings and resources. Without a miracle in the next few days Kaleb will be forced to withdraw from school and give up all that he has worked so hard for. This delightful young man has had to work harder than most, overcoming learning disabilities, lack of family support and being on his own financially.

My family has helped Kaleb as much as we possibly can. His current unmet need stands at $10,000 to cover remaining tuition, living expenses and return to Maine. Please, if you can help Kaleb Theriault contact Holly or Alicia at the UTI/MMI Financial Aid Office at (407) 240-2422. Thank you. — Candice Casey and Family, Mexico.

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