Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Lake Anna, Spotsylvania, Virginia

May 6, 11:05 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:10 a.m.

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Four "dawn songs" of a prairie warbler, each song a rising series of pure tonal notes, as if the bird spells his name, p-r-a-i-r-i-e. He's singing well after sunrise during a brief lull in a spirited battle with a neighboring male, presumably over territorial rights; this daytime evidence suggests that use of this song during the dawn chorus is an aggressive expression. At this time of day, no chipping occurs between the songs, but when he uses this song at dawn, he calls frenetically between songs.

Contrast these songs with those that the male uses during aggressive encounters with other males (VA-32).


Two indigo buntings sing in the background, with a young male trying to establish a territory adjacent to an older bird.


Photo by John Van de Graaff