A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Why do roosters crow early in the morning?

Dear Straight Dope:

I would like to know why my rooster crows at 3:00 AM. It wakes me up and disturbs my neighbors. Please help with an explanation. Thank you.

I was gonna say, the rooster crows at 3:00 AM because it can't talk. But then I thought, Judy Ann's not going to thank me for a smart-mouth answer like that. So I did a little investigating.

SDSTAFF Jill commented, "When I lived in Jamaica, I asked why the roosters crowed all night long. The neighbors informed me that roosters crow every hour, on the hour. Now that sounded ridiculous to me, but when I checked, it was true. Well, sometimes it would be like 20 minutes after the hour, but exactly an hour later, they would crow again. Each night it would be about five minutes later than the night before, but always an hour between crows."

David Feldman, in WHEN DO FISH SLEEP, says that ornithologists believe crowing marks out territory -- kind of like male dogs peeing, only noisier and easier to clean up after. Kind of saying, "This is my coop, get the heck out of my way, don't mess with my women."

There presumably could be some other phenomenon that occurs regularly to trigger the crow. For instance, if a bus goes by at that time, and your rooster interprets the noise as that of an intrusion by another rooster. Or it could just be that your rooster's sleep cycle wakes him up at that time.

Feldman quotes Janet Hinshaw of the Wilson Ornithological Society: "Most of the crowing takes place in [early] morning, as does most singing, because that is when the birds are most active, and most of the territorial advertising takes place then. Many of the other vocalizations heard throughout the day are for other types of communication, including flocking calls, which serve to keep members of a flock together and in touch if they are out of sight from one another."

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