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The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong with CD (Audio)by Donald Kroodsma
Synopses & Reviews
The Singing Life of Birds is a fascinating read for anyone who yearns to understand the hidden dramas unfolding in his or her own back yard. Through highly personal stories, Donald Kroodsma puts the reader inside the mind of a research scientist to explore how and why birds sing and how we can better understand them through their songs. He deals with such questions as: How does an individual acquire its songs — are they innate and encoded in the DNA, or are they learned — and why? How and why do songs of individuals differ from place to place? Why do birds expend so much effort in singing, often with such complex or beautiful songs? And why does only the male usually sing? Read about robins and wrens, whip-poor-wills and woodcocks, thrushes and thrashers, flycatchers and sparrows, and many others as Kroodsma reveals the singing lives of birds.
The book includes a compact disc with recordings that have been carefully chosen to illustrate how, when, why, and where birds sing and to encourage readers to listen with an inquisitive mind.
"Kroodsma, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, shares what he's learned from more than three decades of recording and analyzing the songs of birds in this intriguing, instructional book. Using 'sonagrams' (also known as sound spectrograms, they plot a sound's frequency over time), he illustrates the songs of 30 birds, from the familiar American robin to the exotic three-wattled bellbird of Costa Rica. He considers how birds acquire their songs (some species learn them; others have their tunes 'encoded somehow in nucleotide sequences of the DNA'), what makes the songs unique, what functions they serve, and how they've evolved. No two species sound alike, of course, but groups of birds within each species have their own dialects, and individual birds have their own repertoires as well. A CD of the bird songs discussed is included, as are descriptions of the recording equipment Kroodsma used and explanations on how to make similar recordings and 'sonagrams.' Kroodsma is a warm, encouraging guide to the world of birdsong, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Illus. Agent, Russ Galen. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Is their song a language? If so, what do they say? Kroodsma (ornithology emeritus, U. of Massachusetts) focuses on only a few of the ten thousand species of singing birds on this earth, but by doing so he thoroughly explains the basics in these 30 personal journeys over 30 years. He explains how, when and where birds sing, starting with birds we hear daily. He then examines how songs develop through learning, mimicry, or some more mysterious means, how dialects develop, why some males sing spectacularly complex and beautiful songs, even on the wing, and even why a few females join in. Kroodsma provides beautiful line drawings, sonograms that are just as beautiful, and a CD with 98 birdsongs, including a cross-species moment between a child and a baby wren in mutual learning and appreciation.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Through highly personal stories, Kroodsma puts the reader inside the mind of a research scientist to explore how and why birds sing and how people can better understand them through their songs. Includes an audio CD of birdsongs.
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 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.
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 CD.
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.
About the Author
A retired biology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Donald Kroodsma's work on bird song is legendary. His book The Singing Life of Birds won the 2006 John Burroughs Medal Award and the American Birding Association's Robert Ridgway Distinguished Service Award for excellence in publications pertaining to field ornithology. In 2003 the American Ornithologits' Union called him the "reigning authority on the biology of avian vocal behavior." Kroodsma received his Ph.D. at Oregon State University and has traveled all over North and South America researching bird song. He is a Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union and the Animal Behavior Society and has published hundreds of academic and popular articles.
Table of Contents
Contents Preface ix
1. BEGINNINGS 1 Hearing and Seeing Bird Sounds 1 The Bewicks Wren 10 The American Robin 23 Good Listening, Good Questions, This Book 37
2. HOW SONGS DEVELOP 42 Introduction 42 Learning Songs:Where,When, and from Whom 44 The White-crowned Sparrow 44 The Song Sparrow 55 Borrowed Songs: Mimicry 68 The Northern Mockingbird 68 Songs That Arent Learned 79 Tyrant Flycatchers: Alder and Willow Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebe 79 Why Some Species Learn and Others Dont 89 The Three-wattled Bellbird 89 The Sedge Wren 102
3. DIALECTS: How and Why Songs Vary from Place to Place 119 The Great Marsh Wren Divide 120 The Black-capped Chickadee 135 The Chestnut-sided Warbler 145 Travels with Towhees, Eastern and Spotted 157 The Tufted Titmouse 165
4. EXTREMES OF MALE SONG 177 Introduction 177 Songbirds without a Song 179 The Blue Jay 179 Songbirds with Especially Complex Songs 191 The Brown Thrasher 191 The Sage Thrasher 202 The Winter Wren 214 Songbirds with Especially Beautiful Songs 225 The Bachmans Sparrow 225 The Wood Thrush 237 The Hermit Thrush 255 Music to Our Ears 267 Songs on the Wing 276 The American Woodcock 276 Tireless Singers 287 The Whip-poor-will 287 The Red-eyed Vireo 297
5. THE HOUR BEFORE THE DAWN 304 The Eastern Wood-Pewee 304 Chipping and Brewers Sparrows 313 The Eastern Bluebird 325
6. SHE ALSO SINGS 335 The Barred Owl 336 The Carolina Wren 346 The Northern Cardinal 357
Appendix I: Bird Sounds on the Compact Disc 366
Appendix II: Techniques 402
Appendix III: Taxonomic List of Species Names 411
Notes and Bibliography 415
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