Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma

PACIFIC wren OR-293

The Pacific Coast, South Slough, Coos Bay, Oregon

May 21, 6:11 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:42 a.m.

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Almost directly overhead, perhaps 15 yards up into the spruce tree, he battles the wind. When the wind surges at one point (4:50), he aborts his song, then waits a full 40 seconds before resuming.

To my struggling ears, these songs all sound alike, but the sonagrams tell a different story. The first three songs are of one type, the next ten full-length songs and the aborted song at 4:47 are of a second type, and the last seven songs are of a third type: A A A B B B B B B B B B B B C C C C C C C.

This is a rather staid performance, by Pacific wren standards. When he's excited, the endings (e.g., last half) of successive songs within an A or B or C grouping are typically different from each other, the variety in his performance so much more invigorating.


Chestnut-backed chickadee, Pacific-slope flycatcher, red squirrel, Pacific wren, Swainson's thrush, American robin, cedar waxwing, golden-crowned kinglet, and wind.


Photo by Brian L. Sullivan