Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Atop Mt. Rogers, Virginia

May 12, 5:55 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:20 a.m.

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He's on a roll for a minute and 10 seconds, singing nonstop, two to three of his squeaky/raspy/rapid phrases each second, over 200 before he comes up for air.

Then he seems more thoughtful, offering his trademark meow once, twice, then a third time before offering a few more song phrases. He sings less continuously now, meowing more often, often introducing his brief (3-7 seconds) bursts of singing with a single meow. It's windy at this time of the morning, but for this catbird I've ducked behind one of the large boulders and am largely out of the wind, though it can be heard swirling about.

With a catbird, one always listens for bits of mimicry, though it's tough to recognize with the catbird's rapid delivery. At 0:24, is that a drink-your-tea of an eastern towhee, at 0:33 the chatter of a red-bellied woodpecker? Maybe. One begins to imagine things after a while, but some catbirds are extraordinary mimics (see OR-324 from Hell's Canyon).


Only when he stops singing at 1:10 does one begin to hear a few of the birds in the background, including the daytime song of a field sparrow, the chewink of an eastern towhee, songs of a Canada warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, song sparrow.


Photo by John Van de Graaff