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The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong (with CD)

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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 thrushes and thrashers, wrens and robins, warblers and whip-poor-wills, bluebirds and cardinals, and may more birds. Learn how each acquires its songs, how songs vary from bird to bird and plac 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 thrushes and thrashers, wrens and robins, warblers and whip-poor-wills, bluebirds and cardinals, and may more birds. 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. 9.25 inches tall x 7.50 inches long x 1.50 inches wide


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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 thrushes and thrashers, wrens and robins, warblers and whip-poor-wills, bluebirds and cardinals, and may more birds. Learn how each acquires its songs, how songs vary from bird to bird and plac 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 thrushes and thrashers, wrens and robins, warblers and whip-poor-wills, bluebirds and cardinals, and may more birds. 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. 9.25 inches tall x 7.50 inches long x 1.50 inches wide

30 review for The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong (with CD)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    "As dawn's first light sweeps the globe, so too does a wave of birdsong sweep from east to west, endlessly, day after day, millenium after millenium." Kroodsma writes about birdsong with a poet's ear and with a scientist's passion for detail and veracity. Or more accurately, his writing actually reveals the deep kinship possible between poetry and science. The level of detail was sometimes hard to follow as I am just learning to distinguish a very few songs Still, though the level of detail is ch "As dawn's first light sweeps the globe, so too does a wave of birdsong sweep from east to west, endlessly, day after day, millenium after millenium." Kroodsma writes about birdsong with a poet's ear and with a scientist's passion for detail and veracity. Or more accurately, his writing actually reveals the deep kinship possible between poetry and science. The level of detail was sometimes hard to follow as I am just learning to distinguish a very few songs Still, though the level of detail is challenging, it is also wondrously revelatory, of the brilliance and complexity of birdsong, of how much there is to learn. I haven't read the whole thing yet. This book is one to grow into, over a long time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Juli

    I am a fairly new bird enthusiast, and this book has inspired further enthusiasm. I'm reading it very slowly with my sweetie (also a birder), over many many months. Kroodsma's fascination and delight in birds, and his insatiable questions are infectious. He is meticulous (as one would expect a scientist to be), but not often to a fault (though for some people, it would be too much). The genetic and morphological diversity you'll come to understand through this book will undoubtedly amaze you, an I am a fairly new bird enthusiast, and this book has inspired further enthusiasm. I'm reading it very slowly with my sweetie (also a birder), over many many months. Kroodsma's fascination and delight in birds, and his insatiable questions are infectious. He is meticulous (as one would expect a scientist to be), but not often to a fault (though for some people, it would be too much). The genetic and morphological diversity you'll come to understand through this book will undoubtedly amaze you, and likely lead you to notice the bird songs you hear day-to-day and season-to-season with an ever-curious and understanding ear.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Not a birdsong guide; rather an introduction to the variety of sounds bird make, how they are researched, and what this tells us about the birds, their evolutionary history, and ourselves. A great introduction to the science of studying birds, and just enough "waxing poetic" to keep it from being too dry. Not a birdsong guide; rather an introduction to the variety of sounds bird make, how they are researched, and what this tells us about the birds, their evolutionary history, and ourselves. A great introduction to the science of studying birds, and just enough "waxing poetic" to keep it from being too dry.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    Enjoyable book on how and why birds sing. Kroodsma presents a series of case studies that are drawn from his research but presented in a language easily understandable to non-scientists.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bill Leach

    Some birds learn songs while the song is built into the DNA for others. At present, it is thought that only the songbirds (suborder Passieri of the perching birds), parrots and some hummingbirds. They represent about half the bird species. Kroodsma's early work was done on Bewick's Wren where he showed that earlier hatching birds learn more songs than later hatching birds, opening the question of whether the greater repertoire provides an advantage to the bird. The author shows how the sonagram c Some birds learn songs while the song is built into the DNA for others. At present, it is thought that only the songbirds (suborder Passieri of the perching birds), parrots and some hummingbirds. They represent about half the bird species. Kroodsma's early work was done on Bewick's Wren where he showed that earlier hatching birds learn more songs than later hatching birds, opening the question of whether the greater repertoire provides an advantage to the bird. The author shows how the sonagram can be used to visualize the songs of the American Robin, making variations clearer. Song Development The White-crowned Sparrow has five distinct populations in the Point Reyes National Seashore, grouped by distinctive song dialects. It learns songs more readily in it's early natal years; hence from it's father - but can learn songs if dispersal takes him into an area of different dialect. It is uncertain as to whether the song boundaries discourage dispersal and therefore isolate the populations genetically. Some population differences have been documented but it is unclear as to whether they are due to dispersal limitations or to founder effects. The Song Sparrow learns the songs of his neighbors, preferring songs shared by at least two neighbors. When he hears a song, he responds with the same song (type matching) or a different, shared song (repertoire matching). Type matching is more aggressive and usual in breeding season. Songs appear to allow territories to be defended more efficiently. The Northern Mockingbird is a mimic, using over 100 songs picked up from other species. These are sung in groups of one to five, separated by two second gaps. The bachelor sings all night in hope of attracting a mate. Once paired, singing is much reduced. While the Mockingbird obtains his large repertoire by borrowing songs, the Gray Catbird (400 songs) and the Brown Thrasher (2000 songs) use improvised songs. The sub-oscine birds (mostly Neotropical) include the flycatchers, woodcreepers, antbirds, elaenias and manikans. Kroodsma describes his work with the flycatchers to establish that their song is innate and develops without learning. Populations with differing songs are now recognized as being genetically different in spite of almost identical appearance and are identified as different species - for example, the Willow and Alder Flycatchers. The Slaty Antshrike is thought to be as many eight species over it's range from Belize to Brazil. The Three-Wattled Bellbird, although a sub-oscine, does learn it's song. Two dialects exist - the 'bonk' and the 'quack'. The young birds take six to seven years to perfect their songs. The two dialects have changed since the 1980's, with the whistle declining from 5500 Hz to 3700 Hz. The adult birds appear to be listening to each other resulting in the evolution of the songs over the years. Kroodsma hypothesizes that competition for females causes the males to change their song to make it more attractive. Marsh and Sedge Wrens generally learn songs from neighbors and exchange them when responding. The North American Sedge Wren is different as it is highly nomadic. Instead, each male generates it's own song set which it uses to respond to neighbors. Dialects Western and eastern populations of Marsh Wren have quite different songs. The eastern population sings fewer than 50 songs in rotation. The western population sings over 100 songs, often anticipating it's neighbors sequence. The two populations have a narrow border in the east of Nebraska, but further north the separation occurs over much of Saskatchewan. Most Black-capped Chickadees in North America sing the same song. Exceptions include three separate dialects in Martha's Vineyard and local dialects in British Columbia. It seems that irruptions occur in the chickadees where young birds travel some distance, allowing the song to be shared. Those populations with their own dialect appear to be localized and non-migratory. Chestnut-sided Warblers have individual territorial songs, which seem to be used to compete with other males for females. About half of the nestlings in a nest are fathered by the male owning the territory. Interesting material on the dialects of the towhees and the titmice. Extremes of Male Song While the corvids are songbirds, they seem to have few, rather simple calls that hardly qualify as songs. An examination of the Blue Jays, however, shows that they use a number of variations on the basic call for different interactions. They also tend to imitate hawks on occasion. The trashers are notable for the number of their songs. The Brown Trasher has a repertoire of around 2000 songs; they are repeated suggesting that the bird learns the songs rather than improvises. The Sage Thrasher has on the order of 700 songs, but they are largely songs learned from other songbirds. The Winter Wren is notable for the length of it's songs, being some 7 seconds long. Kroodsma talks of the most beautiful singers, noting Bachman's Sparrow, the Wood Thrush and the Hermit Thrush. The Wood Thrush sings with two simultaneous pitches, a different pitch produced by each voice box. A number of birds use the two voice boxes to produce different notes, all seeming to use the left voice box for lower pitches and the right for higher. He includes an interesting discussion on the similarities to human music. The American Woodcock supplements it's song or call with a brief whistle produced by three stiffened feathers at the end of the wings. The Common Snipe also uses feathers but makes sound by directing air over a single feather on the leading edge of the tail. The Whip-Poor-Will and the Red-Eyed Vireo are among the most tireless of singers, singing over 20,000 songs per night and day, respectively. The Hour Before Dawn - In this chapter, the author examines the songs of the Eastern Wood-Pewee, the Chipping and Brewer's Sparrows and the Eastern Bluebird in the context of the Dawn Chorus as a competition amongst the male birds. She Also Sings - Examples of species where the female has a significant song, including the Barred Owl, Carolin Wren and the Northern Cardinal. Kroodsma's narrative about each species reads like a detective story as he learns about the songs of each, deftly bringing out the excitement of discovery.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    great book for bird lovers but i could not read it through. it's more of a reference book about recording bird song and making sonograms of them. the author writes well with an entertaining style but he goes into technical scholarly details on every bird species he's ever encountered (hyperbole much?). i had this on loan through interlibrary loan and i sent it back unfinished. in fact, i did not get very far in but i would like to own it, i think. great book for bird lovers but i could not read it through. it's more of a reference book about recording bird song and making sonograms of them. the author writes well with an entertaining style but he goes into technical scholarly details on every bird species he's ever encountered (hyperbole much?). i had this on loan through interlibrary loan and i sent it back unfinished. in fact, i did not get very far in but i would like to own it, i think.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Baca

    this spendid and magnificently illustrated collection has kept me captivated for months now....and actually inspired me to begin a new series of paintings based upon my decades as an avid bird watcher. some evenings i just browse the rich color plates and other evenings i read a story or two...always calms me by providing yet another glimpse into the winged ones ways of natural rhythms plus i so enjoy the tremendously diverse writing styles and as mentioned... the art throughout

  8. 4 out of 5

    David

    Kroodsma's step-by-step analysis of sonagrams is very clear, and his passion for recording bird vocalizations is persuasive. As for myself, I'm tempted to acquire a parabolic mic and digital recorder and get out there listening. The passages in which Kroodsma details his field work, hour by hour, are less effective. Kroodsma's step-by-step analysis of sonagrams is very clear, and his passion for recording bird vocalizations is persuasive. As for myself, I'm tempted to acquire a parabolic mic and digital recorder and get out there listening. The passages in which Kroodsma details his field work, hour by hour, are less effective.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ana Catalano

    How to go out birding and experience bird encounters without actually and physically getting out of your home: reading this book. Perfect!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ginny

    Not what I expected. This is really a bird call book. It has music notes for various bird song. Way above my skills. For a more advanced border this book might hit the mark.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lafcadio

    Fascinating data about birdsong.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

    Interesting and beautiful, but dense. Maybe I’ll return someday. 🐦

  13. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    While I was reading this book, I couldn't stop talking about it. It had never occurred to me that some birds are born with their song in their genes, and others must learn to sing. The process of song learning, as described by the author, is fascinating. The significance of bird song encompasses so many things, from simple calls of communication, to pleas for a mate, to the defense of territory. The book contains numerous sonograms which correspond to tracks on a CD of bird songs, which also come While I was reading this book, I couldn't stop talking about it. It had never occurred to me that some birds are born with their song in their genes, and others must learn to sing. The process of song learning, as described by the author, is fascinating. The significance of bird song encompasses so many things, from simple calls of communication, to pleas for a mate, to the defense of territory. The book contains numerous sonograms which correspond to tracks on a CD of bird songs, which also comes with the book. I still refer to this book regularly, and I have all the bird songs on my mp3 player!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zina

    My sister, Tina, and her husband gave me this book. Ric heard a lecture by Donald Kroodsma at Hartwick and knew I'd love it. SO TRUE! I've since heard him interviewed along with the son of the man who authored the Peterson's Field Guide. Delightful. There is a CD in the back of this book that is simply fun to put on and listen to while working in the kitchen. So many amazing birds. Such an incredible world the Lord hath made. I haven't checked out the other books Kroodsma has written, but I'm sure My sister, Tina, and her husband gave me this book. Ric heard a lecture by Donald Kroodsma at Hartwick and knew I'd love it. SO TRUE! I've since heard him interviewed along with the son of the man who authored the Peterson's Field Guide. Delightful. There is a CD in the back of this book that is simply fun to put on and listen to while working in the kitchen. So many amazing birds. Such an incredible world the Lord hath made. I haven't checked out the other books Kroodsma has written, but I'm sure they'd be good.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeni

    This book was one I bought to keep Mommy-brain at bay. Wow. The author does a really good job of making studying birdsong seem like the most fascinating thing in the world. My only gripe is that after going on and on about how intricate and amazing some particular aspect of birdsong is, he'll interject a comment on evolution. This book was one I bought to keep Mommy-brain at bay. Wow. The author does a really good job of making studying birdsong seem like the most fascinating thing in the world. My only gripe is that after going on and on about how intricate and amazing some particular aspect of birdsong is, he'll interject a comment on evolution.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Faith Reidenbach

    Disappointing. Much more detail about the author's life and methods than I cared about. Too little emphasis on categories of bird songs and how to recognize different birds. The emphasis is on using sonograms, which are no doubt helpful to a scientist but were mystifying to me. Disappointing. Much more detail about the author's life and methods than I cared about. Too little emphasis on categories of bird songs and how to recognize different birds. The emphasis is on using sonograms, which are no doubt helpful to a scientist but were mystifying to me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    for serious birders only, and even then i recommend skimming through most of it. but a fascinating subject, and comes with a great CD of birdsongs, which are broken down millisecond by millisecond in the book via sonograms.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mad Russian the Traveller

    recommending this to my good friend Dr. Orsborn, who loves bird watching...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathon

    I learned a *lot* from this book. It has already changed how I listen to birds. And it's written in a surprisingly engaging manner. I learned a *lot* from this book. It has already changed how I listen to birds. And it's written in a surprisingly engaging manner.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pipi

    I actually abandoned this book which I rarely do because it was just too technical. It's not really for the lay bird watcher, but more for researchers working in the field. I actually abandoned this book which I rarely do because it was just too technical. It's not really for the lay bird watcher, but more for researchers working in the field.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I'm hoping to sell a review of this book to a bird magazine. It comes with a CD. I'm hoping to sell a review of this book to a bird magazine. It comes with a CD.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    Changed how I listen to birds.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    While I learned a lot by reading (most of) this book, the journal-style manner of writing started to wear on me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jessie (saxgrl1)

    An amazing look into birds and their song. Lots of natural history.

  25. 4 out of 5

    J. Guapster

    Imagine a field biologist who could explain his field experiments in the form of travel/nature writing. That's Kroodsma. Book also comes with a lovely CD. Imagine a field biologist who could explain his field experiments in the form of travel/nature writing. That's Kroodsma. Book also comes with a lovely CD.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    Among the best birding books I've ever read. A masterful piece of work. Among the best birding books I've ever read. A masterful piece of work.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rohan Shinde

  28. 5 out of 5

    Neill Vanhinsberg

  29. 4 out of 5

    Evan Russell

  30. 4 out of 5

    DARLENE PRICE

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