Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Big Hole National Battlefield, Wisdom, Montana

June 7, 5:08 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:45 a.m.

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This American robin is on a tear, delivering roughly two songs per second, 120 per minute, leaving me breathless just listening to him as he greets the day with his dawn singing. At 1:22 he begins a two-second pause, and at 2:05 he pauses for a little over a second, but other than that he doesn't miss a beat. He consistently offers a few low carols punctuated by one to three higher hisselly phrases, on and on, though admittedly sometimes it's hard to tell which kind of phrase is which.

You can play the robin game of listening for a distinctive phrase if you wish. I chose the two-note whistled phrase at 0:28 and listened for it to recur, finding it in three clusters:

1) 0:28, 0:32.5, 0:39.5, 0:48.5, 0:53.5, 0:59.5 (0:28 to 0:59)

2) 1:25.5, 1:31.5, 1:34.5, 1:41.5 (1:25 to 1:41)

3) 1:59.5, 2:03, 2:08.5 (1:59 to 2:08)

As with other robins, he sings in packages, giving one of his carols several times among others, then abandoning that carol until some time later, when he reintroduces it.


Wilson's snipe winnowing, yellow warbler, sandhill crane bugles (2:04).


Photo by John Van de Graaff