While participating in a canoe expedition along the meandering course of Mukungwa River, I noticed something about birds that ignited my desire to learn more. During my subsequent tours elsewhere, I had an opportunity to get closer to these fascinating animals and pay more attention to their lives.
Birds are gifted musicians. I have fond memories of songs released by talented birds during my childhood. Different species of birds have unique tones and genres while some individuals have their own signature songs. Some have one song in their repertoires while others have several singles or a couple of albums.
Chances are, you have heard early morning hit songs from birds before. Scientists call the early morning show the dawn chorus. It usually starts as early as 4 a.m. and lasts several hours. While birds can showcase their singing flair any time of the day, it is the dawn chorus which is always more audible and consistent.
Long before alarm clocks were invented, roosters used to wake up our ancestors. Roosters belong to the livestock division but like their wild counterparts, their early morning routine is consistent. Their most recognizable and predictable pattern happens at dawn.
I find songs produced by birds quite soothing and I bet you feel the same way. However, birds don’t sing to entertain us. They do so to deliver messages to fellow birds. Their melodies are composed to convey different messages to specific recipients. What sounds like a hit song could be a message encoded to inform a female bird that the male "singer" is available for mating.
Birds are hardworking creatures. Last time I trespassed in their habitat, one foreign tourist who understands wildlife better than I do was talking about their busy lives. I pointed at one hawk-eyed bird that seemed to be doing nothing on a branch of a tree as I disagreed with him. Little did I know that the bird in question was there to detect security threats and send signals to family and friends. Contrary to my judgment, that bird wasn’t hanging out idly. It was on duty.
Birds have more important things to do than singing for us. Like many other creatures in the competitive animal kingdom, they have to work hard to survive. They put in long hours every day of their lives. They neither take a day off nor go on vacation. In their economy, it’s business as usual during weekends and public holidays.
Some of these animals perform tasks that are similar to jobs people do. Did you know that some birds work as interior designers? Wildlife will never stop amazing me!
I was overwhelmed by the excitement of steering my canoe down the stream while learning rowing techniques. Obviously, I didn’t give the birds of Mukungwa my undivided attention. Still, I got a glimpse into the hustle and bustle of their lives. Ever since, I have been paying more attention to birds than I used to and each birding experience leaves me speechless.
As I propelled my canoe one stroke at a time, I saw a lot of construction projects. Birds were busy building nests, an activity that requires an advanced level of expertise. Those neat penthouses made of woven grass, camouflaged with moss and lined with mud prove that these creatures boast highly developed skills.
Superb work ethic, exemplary teamwork, impressive resilient spirit, profound communication skills — I can go on and on trying to phrase my observation. As I mentioned earlier, birds have more important things to do than singing and obviously, we can borrow a leaf from them.
The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @ExposureRwanda