Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


The Pacific Coast, South Slough Sanctuary, Coos Bay, Oregon

May 22, 5:27 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:45 a.m.

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Four and a half minutes of a Swainson's thrush awaking at dawn. I love listening to his opening calls, as they are so typical, and although they are of the same general type for these first 30 seconds, the calls vary in subtle and striking ways from each other.

He then sings, beginning at 0:32, and delivers a total of 38 songs. My ears are not good enough to follow exactly what he's doing, but I am somewhat flabbergasted when I study the sonagrams. All of the odd numbered songs seem to be of the same type (though not all are complete versions), but the even numbered songs seem to consist of three different songs. That's a unique twist on how to construct a singing performance out of a small number of songs!

Some of his songs are pretty special. Listen to those at 0:50 and 1:02, for example, to sample the frills that he adds to the end of his song.


Pacific-slope flycatcher, American robin, wind


Photo by John Van de Graaff