Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana

June 3, 5:09 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:41 a.m.

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A white-crowned sparrow singing his version of the local dialect, with at least two other individuals doing the same in the background.

Beginning at 0:24, a second bird can be heard in the background. More clearly, from about 0:54 to 1:47, a third individual can be heard clearly alternating his songs with the foreground bird (same individual recorded in MT-270).

All of these singing white-crowned sparrows conform loosely to the local dialect. Each male begins with a wavering half-second whistle, and progresses to two lengthy buzzy notes, the first higher than the second. On the end typically is a trill of three notes, followed by a whistle slurred downward.

Where each maintains his own distinct voice is in the complex syllables just after the introductory whistle, as no two males seem to agree on the particular phrases to be sung there.

Here's a quick comparison of the songs of these three neighboring white-crowned sparrows: MT-269, MT-270, MT-271.


Lincoln's sparrow, cow elk, American robin, ruffed grouse drum, Wilson's snipe winnow, chipping sparrow.


Photo by Robert Royse