Spatial and temporal variation of bird dawn chorus and successive acoustic morning activity in a Mediterranean landscape

Ecoacoustic techniques using multiple acoustic sensors and two metrics of the acoustic community – the acoustic complexity index (ACI) and the chorus ratio (CR) – were successfully used to describe and characterize the morning acoustic activity of birds according to three equal temporal intervals during spring 2013: Dawn Chorus, Post Chorus 1, and Post Chorus 2.The metrics were applied across five Italian Mediterranean locations (Valenza, Madonna dei Colli, Monte Curto, Virolo, Croce di Tergagliana) that differed by land-cover typologies. Results from the ACI metrics showed a peak during the Dawn Chorus and a visible lull close to sunrise between Dawn Chorus and Post Chorus 1.The lull was evident in all localities except Valenza, where singing activity was relatively constant across the successive morning intervals. Temperature and vegetation structure were confirmed as important factors associated with morning acoustic activities. Vegetation evenness and temperature across the season was negatively correlated with ACI, whereas CR was positively correlated with temperature and vegetation diversity. Of the 33 species of birds identified during the maximum dawn chorus activity, Blackcap, Blackbird, European Robin, and Great Tit were acoustically dominant and their activity was significantly higher before sunrise except for Blackcap, whose acoustic activity showed no significant differences across time intervals. The dawn chorus is one of the most conspicuous behaviours of birds, engendering much speculation but no definitive, univocal explanations. The ecoacoustic approach opens a new perspective for investigating this complex phenomenon.