Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Shortgrass Prairie of eastern Colorado, near Sterling, Colorado

May 27, 6:30 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:26 a.m.

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Six songs of a lark sparrow in fine form. Back-to-back songs contain many of the same song phrases, but they're all rearranged, it seems. If I write a song formula for the first song as "a b c d e f," then the second is "a c g b h f i"--four of seven phrases in the second song are the same as the first, but they're arranged in a difference sequence. In the third song, all five song phrases are new, and although he surely has a limited number of song phrases in his repertoire, the short-term impression is of a singer with an endless variety of dazzling songs at his disposal.

And does he mimic? I have played with these songs, isolating bits here and there, saying to myself "that sounds like a . . ." At the beginning of the 6th song (1:36), doesn't that sound like the well-known kli-kli-kli of an American kestrel?


Killdeer, American robin, eastern kingbird, common yellowthroat.


Photo by John Van de Graaff