Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, southeastern Oregon

June 10, 4:49 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:14 a.m.

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A common nighthawk patrolling its territory at dawn. As he circles about, he calls peent . . .peent . . . peent . . . faster than one every two seconds. Just barely can we follow his erratic flight, and then he dives sharply, VROOMing loudly at the bottom of his dive. In this four minute segment, he dives and VROOMs ten times, about once every 25 seconds, peenting ten to 12 times between successive dives.

The peents of a nearby common nighthawk can on occasion be heard in the background, as during the first ten seconds; even more distant VROOMs are heard, because the low-frequency booming sound carries so much farther than the higher peeents (e.g., 0:13, 0:17, though both are partially masked by the foreground peent; better heard at 0:51, when two males can be heard in the distance, the first off to the right, the second to the left).


Wind, ring-necked pheasant, western kingbird, western meadowlark, and an early morning breeze whistling through the sage.


Photo by John Van de Graaff