Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Southern Illinois: Ferne Clyffe State Park, Goreville

May 25, 5:07 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:37 a.m.

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A summer tanager in dawn song. He flew into a small oak tree just yards from me, giving himself away with his pit-i-tuck call. And then this! For a full 40 minutes he sang beside me, his songs becoming so familiar (in this selection I offer you a mere four and a half minutes of his singing life). I listened especially for the triple glissando, three notes in rapid succession that each slide down the scale (in this selection, it is first heard at 0:03, then at 0:11, 0:17, 0:26, 0:36, and so on).

Even when I'm distracted by the purple martins overhead or the worm-eating warbler down below, I cannot help but notice that triple note whenever he sings it. Soon other phrases become familiar as well, as he has a limited repertoire of less than ten song phrases. Thank you, Mr. Tanager.


Worm-eating warbler in dawn song (chipping between songs just barely audible), American crow, northern cardinal, yellow-billed cuckoo, tufted titmouse, purple martins overhead, and traffic on the highway in the valley below.


Photo by Robert Royse