Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Lake Anna State Park, Spotsylvania, Virginia

May 20; 5:16 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:57 a.m.

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An eastern kingbird in dawn song, at the top of a small tree beside the lake. He sputters and stutters in his harsh, strident voice, t't'tzeer, t'tzeetzeetzee, t't'tzeer, t't'tzeer, T'TZEETZEETZEE, as if trying a dozen or more times per minute "to pronounce the word 'explicit', but . . . making a miserable, stuttering failure of it," said one early naturalist (Walter Faxon).

He is perched, but when the density of kingbirds is higher (perhaps when males have more females in the neighborhood to try to impress), males sing in the dark, circling in flight high above their territories.


Off to the left is a chipping sparrow in dawn song, sputtering his short songs with just a few phrases, sometimes as few as two or three. Purple martin and tree swallow are in dawn song; other sounds are a Baltimore oriole, fish jumping in the lake.


Photo by John Van de Graaff