Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


On the Ohio River: Cave-in-Rock State Park, Illinois

May 23, 5:10 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:37 a.m.

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From Virginia to Kansas these orioles accompanied us, but it was always special to stand next to one at dawn.

This orchard oriole sings from a small bush beside the lodge and restaurant at Cave-in-Rock State Park, and that's an understatement. He is ROCKING! What boundless energy and enthusiasm one feels just listening to this male; he's on a singing rampage, no two songs alike, the variety invigorating. I watch the sonagrams float by as I listen, and I think I see two different one-second introductions that he favors, but then it's as if he loses his place in the excitement, and anything can follow. Perhaps you can see and hear those two different introductions in the first four songs, where he alternates them, as A B A B.

Or here's a fun game to try; listen for that unique down-slurred, raspy trill in the middle of the song at 0:09, and then try to find it again. You'll hear it again at 1:01, 1:18, 1:25, and more, and in listening for this particular sound you'll hear how the songs vary from one to the next in duration and rhythm.

Or try listening for that intense, down-slurred tonal note at 0:04, the penultimate note in the song; there it is at the end of the next song (0:10), in the middle of the next song (0:15), not at all in the fourth song, middle of the fifth song, not in the sixth, middle of seventh, not in eighth, end of ninth, end of tenth . . . and now you're on your own (but you won't hear it again until the 16th song).


Northern cardinal (at least two singing males; they match each others' songs, especially noticeable at 1:44 and beyond), chipping sparrows in dawn song (at least two), American crow, great crested flycatcher in dawn song, indigo bunting, American robin. And the constant drone of boat traffic on the Ohio River.


Photo by John Van de Graaff