Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Atop Mt. Rogers, Virginia

May 26, 6:15 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:09 a.m.

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A winter wren, of the eastern variety! Singing from the tip of a spruce branch, high above a stream trickling down the mountain, he delivers 20 songs in this recording of a little over four minutes.

Listen carefully, and you will hear that he sings two different songs. Feel the rhythm in his first two songs (A), especially how the first two and a half seconds are dominated by two lengthy trills, the first slightly higher and faster than the second; each song is almost eight seconds long.

Then feel how different the third song is (B), how it is only about five seconds long, and there's only the one high, fast trill in the first three seconds, not two trills. Hear him out until 3:04, when he switches back to the A song, and then to 4:05 when he switches back to B.

In this recording, his song program would be written as 2A, 12B, 4A, ending with 2B. A repertoire of two different songs is typical for winter wrens.


Distant hermit thrush, golden-crowned kinglet, and American crow.


Photo by Robert Royse