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Birding: Let’s talk about sounds

Birding: Let’s talk about sounds

Nature-based tourism enables me to understand flora and fauna better. My knowledge of plants and animals is pedestrian but every nature getaway is a study tour.

Wildlife is a very broad topic. Today, allow me to write something about the effort to step up my birding game through sound identification. Spoiler alert: This piece is more anecdotal than scientific.

Birds are talented musicians. Different species have unique tones and genres while some individuals have their own signature songs. Some birds have one song in their repertoires while others come with several singles, even a couple of albums.

I try to put names to the songs whenever I listen to those soothing melodies. The longer I listen to them, the more I notice differences in tones, patterns and pitches.

The yellow-fronted canary, known for its distinct silvery twitter, is a true definition of a songbird. The red-chested sunbird, on the other hand, produces a very entertaining high-pitched jumble. The sunbird’s call includes a short chek, chek, chek followed by a long cheee, cheee, cheee. I love it.

Not all birds are good singers though. Some of them release songs that are not so amusing to me . The noisy woodland kingfisher is nothing but a noisemaker — that annoying classmate you would want to report to the discipline master. A double-crested cormorant makes deep, guttural grunts, like an oinking pig.

Well, birds do not make sounds to entertain us. They do so to communicate to fellow birds. What sounds like a beautiful lullaby could be a way of informing a female recipient that the male singer is available for mating. What sounds like a bottom-of-the-chat, awful song could be a territory-marking announcement.

The author is an adventurer on a tour of all 30 districts and 416 sectors of Rwanda. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @GeoExposure.

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