Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

May 8, 5:40 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:11 a.m.

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What a disjointed performance this eastern towhee puts on at dawn! It's as if he can't decide whether to sing or call, and when he does sing, he can't decide on what form the song should take or whether he should see the song through to the end or sing just a bit of it.

He uses two different calls, one a flat chip (0:05), the other the standard chewink (0:11). When he sings, he at first alternates two different songs, A B A B A, but then at 0:34 he offers three beautiful tonal notes, which we eventually learn are the first three notes of still another song (C), heard best in its entirety at 2:37. Nor, it seems, can he fully decide on the proper form of song C, because he doesn't always use the same introductory notes with this song (compare songs at 2:37 and 2:53).

Just what he conveys with this kind of performance we cannot know, but I love the variety he introduces into his dawn singing.


An early morning wind. And an American woodcock! He sings on the wing from high overhead (best heard with headphones, just before and after 0:30).


Photo by John Van de Graaff


Photo by Wil Hershberger