Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Chief Joseph Pass, Montana

June 7, 6:33 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:45 a.m.

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Five songs of a Townsend's solitaire. Those are the simple facts, but what extraordinary songs they are! For the first five seconds or so of each song he articulates his phrases softly, then seems to gain confidence and momentum, singing more loudly, gaining full strength by perhaps ten seconds. They're impressive songs, with durations of 17, 23, 25, 17, and 25 seconds.

I look for patterns in the songs, eager to find any trace of how he puts it all together, but all I find are two or three notes in succession here and there that are shared by perhaps two of the songs. He is a versatile maestro, and some day it would be fun to try to determine how many song elements he has and if he has any favored way to put them together into such special songs.


Ruby-crowned kinglet, red squirrel, and brief chorus of coyotes (0:31-0:58).


Photo by Wil Hershberger