Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Levee Road, Mississippi River flood plain, Cora, Illinois

May 30, 5:07 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:39

Download the Recording

Near the Cora coal works on Levee Road along the Illinois side of the Mississippi river, three dickcissels sing on neighboring territories, all conforming to the local dialect.

For these males, each song is preceded by at least one call, and often more: dick, dick, dick. Next comes a relatively high, complex single phrase, then typically three low notes followed by a high trill. Sometimes that high trill is left off the end, but otherwise these males sing with one voice, all three agreeing on the details of the dick call and the song for this neighborhood.

Here's a summary of the dickcissel dialects you can listen to:

Illinois, Shawnee National Forest, one male: IL-107

Illinois, beside the Mississippi River, three males: IL-108, IL-109, IL-110

Missouri, beside the Mississippi River, four males: MO-111, MO-112, MO-113, MO-114

Missouri, Prairie State Park, six males: MO-154, MO-155, MO-156, MO-157, MO-158, MO-159


American robin, great crested flycatcher, other dickcissels, mourning dove, all of which are barely heard above the roar of a tugboat docked nearby. Moving coal . . . Train whistle.


Photo by Robert Royse