Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Lake Anna State Park, Spotsylvania, Virginia

May 20; 6:01 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:57 a.m.

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Just after sunrise, a brown-headed cowbird sings and calls atop a pine tree along Lake Anna, giving both flight whistles and songs.

If the flight whistle is "FW," and the songs are lettered, during this minute he vocalizes in the following sequence: FW A B C FW FW

These songs are truly a marvel, with the male starting so low with his left voice box that it's difficult to hear what he's doing down there, and then in a split second, with his right voice box he's at the highest frequencies.

Over another few minutes, he gave several other renditions of the same flight whistle as well as two other songs, D and E, showing that he has at least five different songs he can sing.


Rain drops falling from the trees after an overnight rain. American crow, another brown-headed cowbird in background, wood thrush, ovenbird, scarlet tanager.


Photo by Brian L. Sullivan