Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Lincoln Homestead State Park, Springfield, Kentucky

May 31, 5:18 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:21 a.m.

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How can I resist sidling up to a yellow-breasted chat singing in the dark, when I can stand just a few yards away from the source of all of these good sounds emerging from the thick of a small bush? I can't.

I listen, dumbfounded at the variety of sounds he knows, smiling at 1:38 when he introduces a high cheep that sounds exactly like the call of a house sparrow. Whether the source of the sound is in fact a house sparrow or not, it does provide me with a nice handle on how to listen. He cheeps again at 2:08, 2:22, 2:39, a total of 20 times over five and a half minutes all the way to 7:03, and then it's gone! About there, at 6:55, he introduces a somewhat similar, but distinctly lower note, suggesting that around 7:00 he's leaving behind the package of songs with the house sparrow-like cheep and starting a whole new series of sounds.

As you listen, you'll hear other sounds in the first package that accompany the house sparrow cheep. I'll leave you on your own to detect other patterns in this chat's performance.


Willow flycatcher, bullfrogs and green frogs, mostly; eastern kingbird, barn swallow, another yellow-breasted chat, eastern bluebird (e.g., 5:44), in distance.


Photo by John Van de Graaff