American Robin Dawn Song

photo of an American Robin singing by Lang ElliottI used to chase after birds with a parabolic reflector, trying to get the closest and cleanest recordings possible. The idea was to to “slice the bird out of its environment,” so that only one singer would be heard in the recording, with minimal reverberation. I lost interest in this rather sterile approach a number of years ago, even though such recordings have their place in identification guides and are clearly useful for scientific analysis. Now I primarily record soundscapes which include the sounds of a variety of species, usually with no one individual dominating a recording. Nonetheless, I still have an interest in gathering nice “species portraits,” recordings that emphasize the sounds made by an individual bird, but that include a spacious soundscape backdrop.

For example, consider the following recording of an American Robin singing excitedly at dawn, which I made in 1995 (back in the early days!) in the Adirondack Mountains of upper New York State. I find it pleasing in most respects. It emphasizes the robin, but there are plenty of other sounds spread across a wide soundscape. Listen especially for the whistles of White-throated Sparrows, the two-parted high-pitched songs of a Nashville Warbler, and lots of Mink Frogs giving their tapping calls from a nearby wetland:

American Robin dawn song, with White-throated Sparrow and Mink Frogs. Dawn, 15 June 1995. Recorded by Lang Elliott.

Do you like it? As far as “species portraits” go, I think this one rates fairly high. The robin’s song doesn’t rattle the ear (like most closeup robin recordings do), yet it stands out clearly against the busy background. I’m biased for sure, but I can’t help but crow a bit about this species portrait.


  1. I hear Common Yellowthroats, the American Robin, the Nashville Warbler, White-Throated Sparrows, Mink Frogs, and Green Frogs. I like the sound of the Mink Frogs. I have never heard or seen a Mink Frog since I live in southern Michigan.

  2. Verry nice! The robin is dominant, but not at all overwhelming. Robins are one of my favorite song birds, and there are plenty of them here in western New York.

  3. I find this bright and bouyant, and surely the sun would rise smiling any day to such invitation. The Mink frog is new to me, so fun to learn who was tattooing wee drums beneath the birds. Even with nearly full volume the robin is cheerful and never strident, but I really like Robins and their simple, avian plainsong.

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