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Learning to Listen - Patterns in Songs of the Song Sparrow

Musician Heidi Hoelting studies a bird's songs

Heidi Hoelting, a musician, listens carefully to the songs of birds. In her piano studio at her home in the woods, she wrote down several variations of the different sounds a Song Sparrow makes. In this BirdNote, Nancy Rumbel plays some of those variations on a bamboo whistle. Listen to all thirteen variations, as played by Nancy.

Full Transcript



Learning to Listen - Patterns in Song of the Song Sparrow

Written by Chris Peterson

This is BirdNote.

In this show, we use a bamboo bird whistle to demonstrate variations in the song of a single Song Sparrow.

[Nancy on whistle, variation #9]

Heidi Hoelting, a musician, listens carefully to the songs of birds.
One morning … I was in dreamland and I heard this very loud… rhythm, coming through my window, and it woke me up.
…. I decided I was going to try to write down the rhythm… so it went [Nancy on whistle, variation #1]

… what was really noticeable was that it had three parts to the song… the first part [tapping] and then kind of a buzzing [buzzing] and then five regular notes [tapping followed by Nancy variation #1]

OK, so then, one day I noticed that the song was different! And it went ….. [Nancy – variation #2]

Day after day I just kept …“there’s another one!”… and I kept writing them down!  [Nancy – variation #12]

In all, Heidi documented 13 variations.

What’s happened in this later stage of life …with the kids gone and the pets gone …is that… I’m beginning to perceive the complexity of all the life forms that have been around me all along... that I just thought of as “Oh, those are birds’ and now they’re not just birds, they’re a hundred kinds of birds, with a hundred songs…

[Song of Song Sparrow]

Hear all the variations, played by Nancy Rumbel, on our website,

Song of the Song Sparrow provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2019 Tune In to     April 2013/2016/2019   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# SOSP-rumbeln-01-2011-04-26      

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