Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

June 2, 5:54 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:23 a.m.

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An eastern wood-pewee in dawn song, singing from high in the canopy near the visitor center at Mammoth Cave National Park. His first three songs tell it all: ah-di-dee, pee-a-wee, wee-ooo, the three songs that he'll sing throughout the seven minutes captured here. In my notes I use A, P, and W for the three songs, respectively, and try to follow along for the first half minute: A P W P A P W A P A P A. There's no set pattern, though some pewees have rather predictable sequences that they often seem to prefer.

Our ears focus on this one singing pewee, but he's way up there in the canopy with good listening in all directions. What we hear as a faint second pewee in the distance is no doubt much louder in our pewee's ears, and the two of them, as well as perhaps others audible only to them, are truly engaging in a dawn chorus of eastern wood-pewees.


Wood thrush, purple martin, another eastern wood-pewee, scarlet tanager in dawn song (beginning about 3:30).


Photo by John Van de Graaff