Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Southern Illinois: Shawnee National Forest

June 3, 4:51 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:33 a.m.

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Here is my favorite yellow-breasted chat of all time. Early on he offers three sounds that I soon hear frequently. The first sound (at 0:01) is a harsh raspy phrase, somewhat frog-like. Then, after a three-note song, at 0:09 he offers both the BOB and the WHITE of the northern bobwhite song, or so it sounds to me. Whether or not he actually learned them from a bobwhite is impossible to know, but what I value most is that I can recognize them and hear them when he uses them again.

And sure enough, those three sounds comprise about half of his singing effort until he introduces an entirely new package of songs, at 7:14. He gives his last frog-like song at 7:01, the last BOB-WHITE! combination by 7:13, and then it's out with the old and in with the new. Try your ears at recognizing all of the new sounds that he introduces here.


A second yellow-breasted chat on a neighboring territory, purple martins in dawn song flight, barred owl (beginning at 2:41), a single song from an indigo bunting who stirs on his night perch, and eventually a summer tanager in dawn song (about 7:30).


Photo by John Van de Graaff