A Chipping Sparrow’s Dawn Song

Just after sunrise this morning, a morning chorus of birdsong came through the open bedroom windows. Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Brown Thrasher, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee all were singing, and woodpeckers were drumming – but what caught my attention most were the short, repeated trills that seemed to come from a large hedge of wax myrtles, though the singer may have been in a tree on the other side of these large shrubs. I think these shortened trills were part of a Chipping Sparrow’s very early morning songs. Donald Kroodsma, in The Singing Life of Birds describes the dawn songs of Chipping Sparrows and how they gradually lengthen into the longer trills each day, and also explores the great and perhaps surprising diversity in their songs.*

Later in the morning, a Chipping Sparrow – maybe the same one – sang its more familiar long, pretty trill from a perch near the top of a maple tree on the edge of our yard, and I watched it for several minutes as it sang, lifting its head again and again. Its gray breast and brown-streaked back blended in with the network of gray branches in the maple, but the small, pert red crown glowed in the morning sun.

*Donald Kroodsma, The Singing Life of Birds, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005, pages 313-320.


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