Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Over the Cascade Range: Sisters to McKenzie Pass, Oregon

May 25, 8:11 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:27 a.m.

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This Townsend's solitaire seems highly animated as he countersings with another male mid-morning, with relatively few other birds singing, with only the wind to compete with, it seems. His songs are up to 11 seconds in duration (0:51-1:02) and follow quickly one after the other, no two anything alike.

At one point I'm struck by what sounds like the THREE BEERS! portion of an olive-sided flycatcher song (at 0:23), and I listen for it again, but the sound never recurs. Almost surely, I feel, he's mimicked this song from the flycatcher, and I bet there is other mimicry that I don't recognize that is imbedded in the stream of song from him.

I reflect on that brief, recognizable THREE BEERS! that never recurs in all the singing this bird does over these four minutes. If that THREE BEERS! is representative of his other song elements, and it never recurs during these four minutes, a Townsend's solitarire must have a huge repertoire of song elements.

After three and a half minutes, he's had enough singing, and he reverts to his call, a brief, intense whistled note about a tenth of a second in duration.


Another Townsend's solitaire, mountain chickadee, warbler at 1:12 and 1:45, and wind in the ponderosa pines.


Photo by Wil Hershberger