Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Shenandoah Valley: Natural Bridge, Virginia

May 10, 8:00 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:13 a.m.

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Two eastern meadowlarks singing from a field beside our TransAm bicycle trail. Pay attention first to the easy, gliding whistles of the foreground bird, and hear how he offers the following sequence:

A (7 songs), from 0:00 to 1:22

B (6 songs), from 1:29 to 2:25

C (9 songs), from 2:39 to 4:00

D (5 songs), from 4:11 to end

But how can one ignore the eastern meadowlark in the background? He sings as well, and it's some sort of poorly understood gamesmanship that they play, poorly understood on our part, of course, but surely not theirs. The first song of the background male (0:09) is unlike that of the foreground bird, but his very next song (at 0:18, again at 0:27) matches well the song (A) of the foreground bird.

They then mismatch for a while, but at 2:40 the foreground bird switches to match the song (C) that the background bird has just switched to. As if the background bird abhors this matching, he soon switches to yet another song, heard at 3:03.


Yellow-breasted chat, northern cardinal, field sparrow, blue-gray gnatcatcher, northern mockingbird.


Photo by Wil Hershberger