Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Lincoln Homestead State Park, Springfield, Kentucky

May 31, 5:05 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:21 a.m.

Download the Recording

It's early, and dark. Nearby a yellow-breasted chat sings, as he probably has throughout much of the night. And here's the willow flycatcher singing as well, before any other day birds have joined the dawn chorus.

This willow flycatcher has the standard three songs expected of him: the FITZ-bew, the FIZZ-bew, and the creet. Most distinctive is the creet, a sharp, rising, quarter-second note (0:07). The FITZ-bew (the first song in this recording, heard at 0:05) begins with a sharp tonal note, whereas the first note of the FIZZ-bew is raspy (third song, at 0:08). Although the mnemonic for the ending of both of these songs is "bew," that for the FIZZ-bew is markedly higher-pitched and more intense.

With a backdrop of bullfrogs and chat, for the first 30 seconds listen to the songs of this bird play out:

FITZ-bew, creet, FIZZ-bew, creet, FITZ-bew, creet, FITZ-bew, creet, FIZZ-bew.

Follow along for another ten minutes and you begin to understand what the night singing of a willow flycatcher is all about.


Frogs, mostly bullfrog, some green frogs, and yellow-breasted chat dominate the background. Barn swallows call and sing on the wing (e.g., 1:55). There's a single song sparrow song, as he stirs in the dark. Water cascades constantly over the spillway here at Homestead Lake. It's still an hour and a quarter until sunrise!


Photo by Brian L. Sullivan