Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Atop Mt. Rogers, Virginia

May 26, 6:36 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:09 a.m.

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A delightful series of calls and songs from a veery, revealing much of what I so cherish about these birds.

Over the first half minute, he begins with seven calls, all of the same type (listen carefully to them to be sure).

Beginning at 0:30, he offers nine songs, but if you listen carefully, you'll hear that he alternates two different songs, in A B A B A B A B A format. Here's how to distinguish them. Both songs begin with a brief, rising whistled note, but then the first song (A) always consists of two high notes followed by two low notes. The second song (B), after the initial rising whistle, always has three high notes, sometimes followed by a single low note.

Ah, but it is the calls I find so special. Pay attention to how precisely he repeats a given call, over and over, such as those first seven calls; each seems to fall and then rise in frequency, giving a U-shaped note on a sonagram (type 1). Then, brace yourself for the simple descending veeeer (type 2) that begins at 1:46. For the half hour as I listened to him, he alternated bouts of song with bouts of different calls, much as in this brief selection.


Wind; golden-crowned kinglet, dark-eyed junco, Canada warbler, black-throated green warbler, hermit thrush, a red squirrel.


Photo by Brian L. Sullivan