Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Prairie State Park, Mindenmines, Missouri

June 2, 6:50 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:58 a.m.

Download the Recording

A babbling creek flows through the prairie here as I walk up toward the bison grazing on the hillside. A female dickcissel perches nearby with food in her bill, apparently feeding nestlings, as this male dickcissel offers his rendition of the local song dialect. Six songs over half a minute, at a clip of 12 songs per minute.

How fascinating to listen to this male offer his song every five seconds or so, and to hear the others all around on tune, each male knowing only his one song and all singing the same local dialect. In the next few selections, I visit five more of these males; feel the rhythm of these songs and how they all sing with one voice.

Here's a summary of the dickcissel dialects you can listen to:

Illinois, Shawnee National Forest, one male: IL-107

Illinois, beside the Mississippi River, three males: IL-108, IL-109, IL-110

Missouri, beside the Mississippi River, four males: MO-111, MO-112, MO-113, MO-114

Missouri, Prairie State Park, six males: MO-154, MO-155, MO-156, MO-157, MO-158, MO-159


Bell's vireo, eastern meadowlark, brown thrasher.


Photo by Robert Royse