Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Prairie State Park, Mindenmines, Missouri

June 2, 8:38 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:58 a.m.

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Two jewels singing side by side, a rose-breasted grosbeak and a Baltimore oriole, both in plain sight up in the dead snag.

The grosbeak sings as he does, with the listener never knowing what particular sequence of his clear notes is to come.

The oriole is more predictable. His piping song overlaps that of the grosbeak initially; then he gives his typical chatter (beginning at 0:19), and finally sings in the clear at 0:35; he repeats that song version at 0:43, 0:53, and 1:10, but then at 1:18 offers a different tune. Further examples of those two song patterns occur until he is last heard at 2:22, leaving the grosbeak all to himself.

I'm curious about the grosbeak in the background. These are the Great Plains, after all, and in these plains are hybrid grosbeaks bearing characteristics of both the rose-breasted grosbeak of the East and the black-headed grosbeak of the West. I never saw the second grosbeak, so will just have to remain curious as to what he looked like.


Mourning dove, frogs, red-bellied woodpecker, another grosbeak in the background (about 2:10), blue jay.


Photo by John Van de Graaff


Photo by John Van de Graaff