The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong

The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong

Listen to birds sing as you’ve never listened before, as the world-renowned birdsong expert Donald Kroodsma takes you on personal journeys of discovery and intrigue. Read stories of wrens and robins, thrushes and thrashers, warblers and whip-poor-wills, bluebirds and cardinals, and many more bird. Learn how each acquires its songs, how songs vary from bird to bird and place to place, how some birds' singing is especially beautiful or ceaseless or complex, how some do not sing at all, how the often quiet female has the last word, and why.

Hear a baby wren and the author’s own daughter babble as each learns its local dialect. Listen to the mockingbird by night and by day and count how many different songs he can sing. Marvel at the exquisite harmony in the duet of a wood thrush as he uses his two voice boxes to accompany himself. Feel the extraordinary energy in the songs just before sunrise as dawn’s first light sweeps across this singing planet. Hear firsthand the unmistakable evidence that there are not one but two species of marsh wrens and two species of winter wrens in North America. Learn not only to hear but to see birds sing in the form of sonagrams, as these visual images dance across the pages while you listen to the accompanying audio.

Using your trained ears and eyes, you can begin your own journeys of discovery. Listen anew to birds in your backyard and beyond, exploring the singing minds of birds as they tell all that they know. Join Kroodsma not only in identifying but in identifying with singing birds, connecting with nature’s musicians in a whole new way.

Please note: this ebook includes embedded audio files. You will only be able to access these files from a device that supports embedded audio.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547344874

  • ISBN-10: 0547344872

  • Pages: 496

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 02/17/2015

Donald Kroodsma
Author

Donald Kroodsma

DONALD KROODSMA is a world-renowned authority on birdsong and professor emeritus of ornithology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. As a research scientist, he published widely on birdsong for more than 50 years. More recently he has authored books that introduce the general public to birdsong: the award-winning The Singing Life of Birds, The Backyard Birdsong Guides, Birdsong by the Seasons, and Listening to a Continent Sing. He lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts.  
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  • excerpts

    Preface

    SOMEWHERE, ALWAYS, the sun is rising, and somewhere, always, the birds are singing. As spring and summer oscillate between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, so, too, does this singing planet pour forth song, like a giant player piano, in the north, then the south, and back again, as it has now for the 150 million years since the first birds appeared.

    Ten thousand species strong, their voices and styles are as diverse as they are delightful. Some species learn their songs, just as we humans learn to speak, but others seem to leave nothing to chance, encoding the details of songs in nucleotide sequences in the DNA. Of those that learn, some do so only early in life, some throughout life; some from fathers, some from eventual neighbors after leaving home; some only from their own kind, some mimicking other species as well. Some species sing in dialects, others not. It is mostly he who sings, but she sometimes does, too. Some songs are proclaimed from the treetops, others whispered in the bushes; some ramble for minutes on end, others are offered in just a split second. Some birds have thousands of different songs, some only one, and some even none. Some sing all day, some all night. Some are pleasing to our ears, and some not.

    It is this diversity that I celebrate. How the sounds of these species differ from each other is the first step to appreciating them, of course, but those questions quickly give way to “why” questions. Why do some learn and others not? Why do dialects occur in some species and not others? Why is it mainly the male who sings? It is these and similar “why” questions that so intrigue us biologists as we try to understand the individual voices that contribute to the avian chorus.

    In writing about our singing planet, I can focus on only a few of its voices. The thirty stories told here are personal journeys, ones that I have traveled over the past thirty years in my quest to understand the singing bird.

    Many are based on my own research and are years in the making. Others are based on just several days’ experience, or even less, as I seek out birds that illustrate the research of friends and colleagues who share my passions. No matter the source, each story is based on listening and on learning how to hear an individual bird use its sounds, and each story illustrates some of the fundamentals of the science called “avian bioacoustics.” Together, I hope these stories and their sounds reveal how to listen, the meaning in the music, and why we should care.

    Copyright © 2005 by Donald Kroodsma. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547344874

  • ISBN-10: 0547344872

  • Pages: 496

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 02/17/2015

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