Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Jamestown Beach Campground, Jamestown, Virginia

May 5, 6:30 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:07 a.m.

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A white-throated sparrow trying to find his song. He's a young bird, no doubt, heading north this early May, and he's simply not yet finalized his song. The tonal whistles are not strong and pure as they will eventually be, and instead they waver and squeak.

His first three songs suggest a pattern, with three long introductory whistles that drop in frequency, followed by the customary triplets. But on the fourth song (at 0:30), he ascends, with two longish introductory whistles and a high, shrill triplet.

Give him a few weeks and a thousand miles or so to his breeding territory in the North, and he'll get it all just the way he wants it.


Red-bellied woodpecker, American robin, fish crow


Photo by John Van de Graaff