Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

June 4, 4:30 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:40 a.m.

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A mountain bluebird singing 80 minutes before sunrise high above Old Faithful, which had just blown. He's on the move, singing above me, then drifting off to the north, then swinging around and more distant, then closer again. For a good half hour he circles overhead, announcing the dawn.

Inevitably, I look for structure in what he's up to, and label the notes within his first song. I come up with this sequence:

a b c d e f g b c d e f g b

This first song suggests that he picks a favored sequence of notes (b c d e f g, bold) and then repeats it so that he can extend his song. In other songs, he introduces a few other notes, but his repertoire of song notes seems limited to a dozen or so.


The continuous hiss and roar of Upper Geyser Basin, white-crowned sparrow.


Photo by Wil Hershberger