Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Prairie State Park, Mindenmines, Missouri

June 2, 6:25 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:58 a.m.

Download the Recording

With bison just across the stream on a hillside to the north, these "cow"birds are right at home, literally, in their ancestral prairie home where they were confined until we humans opened up the continent to the east and west. Then these buffalobirds converted to following cows, hence the name "cowbird."

Here are the cowbirds in their original community, among prairie birds, the loud thrasher, the dickcissel, bobwhite, and others.

This male and female cowbird court among bison, as they should. At 0:04 and again at 0:15, hear the male's song, which elicits the female's chatter. The intense two-parted whistle at 0:42 is a flight whistle, and more male song and female chatter finish off this one-minute selection.


Brown thrasher, dickcissel, northern bobwhite, American crow, a prairie stream


Photo by Brian L. Sullivan