Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Lake Anna State Park, Spotsylvania, Virginia

May 20; 5:26 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:57 a.m.

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He calls chip-burr, then offers six song phrases at a slowed pace, pauses, calls, pauses, offers several more song phrases, and so on throughout this dawn performance.

I'm intrigued by the pace he chooses. In that first burst of song he offers six phrases, measured at the rate of 1.6 phrases each second. Although he will vary the number of song phrases from five to nine between successive chip-burr calls during the rest of his performance, he always delivers his song phrases at about the same pace.

That 1.6 is a number I'll find useful to compare how other scarlet tanagers deliver their song phrases in different contexts. As I listen, it feels as if he's not singing as slowly as many scarlet tanagers do during the dawn chorus, but he's not singing his fast daytime song, either. It's in between.


Another scarlet tanager sings in the distance, a wood thrush nearer. Rains overnight have left plenty of water in the canopy, so with the slightest of breeze raindrops come crashing down, as heard throughout this selection.


Photo by John Van de Graaff