Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Climbing the Rockies: juniper habitat, Temple Canyon Park, Canyon City, Colorado

June 8, 5:21 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:37 a.m.

Download the Recording

In a dead snag, in plain view only ten yards away, this black-headed grosbeak sings unlike I've ever heard and seen such a bird sing. The songs are of stunning purity, with rich warbles and slurred whistles, nothing harsh or discordant there at all. What a marvel is that song from 4:03 to 4:18, a 15-second masterpiece.

I listen intently, finding a few phrases for which I listen throughout. There's the tenth phrase in the first song, a distinctive down-slurred warble. I hear it again in the fourth song (seventh phrase, at 0:37), in the fifth song (11th phrase), in the sixth song (8th phrase), and more.

In the fifth song, I like that double note in the 8th position (0:45). I listen for it again, not hearing it until 2:27, 2:54, 3:04, and 4:16; that note seems to be used relatively rarely.

A little after four minutes a second black-headed grosbeak can be heard in the background, perhaps prompting the longest song beginning at 4:03; soon these two males are side by side in the dead snag, and chases ensue, with songs shortening.


Chipping sparrow, American robin, spotted towhee, mourning dove, broad-tailed hummingbird, a second black-headed grosbeak,


Photo by Robert Royse