Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Climbing the Rockies: juniper habitat, St. Elmo, Colorado

June 15, 6:36 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:39 a.m.

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A plumbeous vireo--a new bird for me, one that I have never heard before, and given how I love listening to how these vireos play out their songs, I'm eager to view the sonagrams. I study the first song and then search for it in the rest of this selection, noting the positions where it occurs: 1, 3, 7, and then never again in the roughly 80 songs here. I choose another song: 6, 9, 11, 14, 21, and never again. Another: 8, 13, 18, 20, 23, and it's gone. Another: 12, 16, 19, and done. I skip to the last song and count backward: 80, 78, 74, 65, 61, and done.

How fascinating. He sings each song three to five times, not successively, but rather interspersed among other songs, and he gradually moves through his song repertoire in this fashion. Rock wrens also sing like this, as do American robins and yellow-breasted chats, as does his close relative the blue-headed vireo, i.e., they all sing in what I call "packages."

He has a limited repertoire of songs, no doubt, but this two minute recording of him was not long enough for him to finish all that he knew, as he continued to introduce new songs at the end.


The quiet of mid-morning in the open pinyon-juniper forest; peeeer of western wood-pewee (at 1:54).


Photo by Robert Royse