Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Levee Road, Mississippi River flood plain, Cora, Illinois

May 30, 6:44 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:39

Download the Recording

To better appreciate the variety of calls given by the blackbirds along the Mississippi, I have excerpted here six sections from a 12 minute recording; one now hears the different calls back-to-back, over a shorter period of time. If I label each of the calls, the sequence is as follows (with semi-colons separating the sections; sections also audible by slight change in tugboat background noise level): A A A B A A B; C D C; E F C F C G; H H I B I; J J J J J; I K K. How remarkable that he uses 11 different calls over the 12 minutes that I listened, and he may very well have more at his command.

I love birds who tell so much of what they know so quickly. There's nothing reserved about this male, nothing limiting him to giving one particular call for an extended period of time before switching to another.

And how distinctively different are the calls of this dialect from some others that we listened to from Virginia to Oregon. Try listening to CO-317, and you'll hear a stunningly different dialect of red-winged blackbird calls.


Common yellowthroat, yellow-breasted chat, dickcissel, and idling tugboat nearby on the Mississippi


Photo by John Van de Graaff