Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Prairie State Park, Mindenmines, Missouri

June 3, 5:24 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:58 a.m.

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We heard our first barred owls in our campground after our first day of bicycling, in Jamestown, Virginia, and they would accompany us throughout the East until our last encounter at Prairie State Park in western Missouri (where this recording was made).

The songbirds are just awaking, with the pewee in dawn song, as two barred owls caterwaul.

And who is contributing just what to this performance? It's my best guess that the female is doing the repeated who-cooks-for-you-allllllll, with significant vibrato in the allllllll, while the male gives the higher laughing sounds, and when he gives a high, strained you-all, there's less vibrato than in the lower female voice. Mind you, normally the male's voice is lower, but what he's doing here is not "normal." Listen closely at 1:07, during the train's last whistle, and you'll hear a final whimper from one of these owls.


Northern cardinal, eastern wood-pewee in dawn song, tufted titmouse; and the prairie train whistling in the distance.


Photo by John Van de Graaff