Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, Stafford, Kansas

June 4, 5:31 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:11 a.m.

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A Baltimore oriole? I feel uncertain, as he doesn't sound quite right. Long before sunrise, for four minutes he repeats the same song over and over, with no variation. I've never heard a Baltimore oriole do that, as there's always some flourish here or there, some kind of way in which he varies his song. The only hint of something different is a single note at 3:15, suggesting that he could in fact do more than he's revealing.

And there's the background bird, heard first at 0:42, who matches this bird with the same song. Very seldom in my experience do neighboring Baltimore orioles have identical songs.

What gives him away as a Baltimore oriole is the two-note chatter at 3:08. It also helps that I heard this bird awake near the great crested flycatcher earlier this morning; upon awaking, he gave first a long chatter typical of a Baltimore oriole before offering this song.

It is likely, of course, that I just don't know the Kansas dialects of the Baltimore oriole, and these songs are what one would expect from the Baltimore oriole in these parts; with song-learning songbirds, one is often fooled by local dialects. And it's also possible that this bird may have some genes from the Bullock's oriole just to the west, as hybrid orioles are known from western Kansas.


Great crested flycatcher in dawn song, American robin, eastern kingbird in dawn song, mourning dove, at 0:42 another Baltimore oriole matching the featured songster with the same song, ring-necked pheasant.


Photo by John Van de Graaff