I hear two male Red-vented Bulbuls are singing from tree tops in the morning these days in and around my home garden. They utter a sequence of ‘ginger beer’ song on and off during their singing sessions.
The Red-vented Bulbul (pycnonotus cafer) is a familiar garden bird and very common everywhere in the country. Male Red-vented Bulbuls sing quite pleasant songs during the main breeding season of the birds in the country, which is the first half of year, although this bird nests almost throughout the year. Song repertoire of this bulbul is quite varied and consists of many songs with pleasing sounds. Amongst these ‘ginger beer’ is one distinct song uttered in sequence with other songs in the repertoire.
Red-vented Bulbul (pycnonotus cafer), photo by Uditha Hettige.
The ‘ginger beer’ song featured below was recorded by me in May 2008 in my home garden.
G. M. Henry in his classic work on the Sri Lankan birds ‘A Guide to the Birds of Ceylon (1955)’ writes this onomatopoeic name ‘ginger beer’ under the account of Red-vented Bulbul (pages 19-20) to describe this distinctive song type of the bird.
The Asian Koels (Eudynamys scolopaceus) in my home area are still singing. They started singing in February and still continuing it. Males start to sing well before dawn and going on with it almost throughout early part of morning, and then sing on and off during the day time. Then frequency of singing increases again by evening.
They were singing frequently almost throughout the day time during last few months, and in that time they were also singing in some nights. There are about five males are singing and several females are calling within the area which I can hear.
Asian Koel, male. Photo by Uditha Hettige.
I still did not notice the Jungle or Large-billed Crows (Corvus macrorhynchos) are attempting to nest in this area. But, about just quarter of a kilometre away along the Highlevel road there are few pairs of House Crows (Corvus splendens) started to build nests on electric and telephone posts. However, I wonder whether the females in my home area will ever get a chance to lay eggs in these House Crow nests as there are already other koels are singing in the vicinity of these nests.
Besides the males’ very distinct and familiar song they also sing another type of song time to time, of which the purpose appears to be also for advertising their presence to the females.
The familiar song of the males featured below was recorded on 03rd May 2012 in my home garden. It is the sound which connects the koha (the Koel) with the Sinhala Awrudu (the Sinhala New Year) in April.
The other song of the males featured below was recorded on 12th May 2012 in my home garden. In this recording other koels in the area are also heard, including the call of the females described below.
Females have a very different vocalization in contrast to the songs of the males. Males also utter the same call on and off, and it is the only vocalization heard from both sexes during non-breeding season when the males do not sing.
Asian Koel, female. Photo by Uditha Hettige.
Call of female featured below was recorded on 03rd May 2012 in my home garden.
Red-vented Bulbul (pycnonotus cafer ), photo by Uditha Hettige.
At times in the morning I now hear up to four male Red-vented Bulbuls singing from their regular ‘song posts’ within vicinity of my home garden. Two of them sing from their regular tree tops (i.e. ‘song posts’) of two immediate neighbouring gardens and the other two from their ‘song posts’ in the gardens further up. I recorded few song repertoires of one of the males in close vicinity and parts of three repertoires are featured below showing some of the different songs that these bulbuls sing during their breeding season.
Sound track below features a part of repertoire with about four different types of songs. Singing of one of the distant bulbuls can also hear in background of this track.
Sound track below features a part of repertoire with about three different types of songs including the ‘ginger beer’ song at the end (the last two songs), which I described in my last posting in the blog.
Sound track below features a part of repertoire with about six different types of songs including a song sounds ‘sweet potatoes’ at the end (the last two songs), as G. M. Henry names this song type under description of vocalization of the Red-vented Bulbul in his classic book on Sri Lankan birds ‘A guide to the Birds of Ceylon’ (1955).
On the vocalizations of Yellow-rumped Flycatcher at Tanamalvila
On 18 January I visited the site in Tanamalvila where a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zathogygia) was found on 3 Jan. 2012 by Amila Salgado. I was there in the mid morning and spent looking for the bird while listening for any unfamiliar bird sound, and about half an hour had gone without any luck. Then I suddenly heard an unfamiliar subsong of a bird and soon realized that it has to be the flycatcher I’m looking for. I quickly started recording the subsong before I tried to see the bird. I was quite eager to see the bird but I kept the recorder going on for few more minutes before I finally tracked down the singer.
Male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zathogygia), a photo taken by Uditha Hettige at the same location some days ago I saw it.
It was my second sighting of this beautiful flycatcher in Sri Lanka, I had found the same species for the first time in Sri Lanka on 7 March 1999. It was on Sellakataragam-Buttala road in Yala Block III. While birdwatching there along the road I heard an unfamiliar melodious song, a somewhat loud song comprising of rather short phrases which reminiscent of parts of the songs of Oriental Magpie-Robin. Looking for the singer I found a beautiful flycatcher singing up on a tree, which was then little later identified as a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. I was very excited to see this very beautiful flycatcher then as it was new for me as well as for the country!
This time in January the flycatcher in Tanamalvila was only singing its subsong, quite long phrases comprising of high-pitched warbling and squeaking notes, which is sung quite softly (as usual with singing subsongs by the song birds). Probably this male will sing its crystallized or full song in March before it leaves Sri Lanka.
I visited the site again on 21 Jan. morning and I had to spent more time than it was on the previous occasion till I heard the flycatcher. This time I first heard its calls, a whistled ‘pweep’ sometimes followed by a rattle ‘trirrri’ (reminiscent of the call of Kashmir Flycatcher). Later it sang the subsong for a while too.
The following track features a recording of subsong made on the 21st. It has been edited slightly with reduction of unwanted background sounds to some extent. Subsong is the soft, high-pitched notes heard in a continuous uttering, and sounds of some other birds are also evident in background of the track (i.e. Brown-headed Barbet, Indian Peafowl and Pale-billed Flowerpecker ).
The following track features a recording of the calls made on the 21st. It has been edited slightly with reduction of unwanted background sounds to some extent. The calls heard are the whistled ‘pweep’ sound and the rattle ‘trirrri’, and sounds of some other birds are also evident in background of the track (i.e. Coppersmith Barbet, Black-headed Oriole, Forest Wagtail, Indian Peafowl and Brown-headed Barbet ).
I have kept the best recordings of subsong and calls of this flycatcher I made on 18th and 21st Jan. to be featured in the forthcoming Vol. 2 of Bird Sounds and Images of Sri Lanka (a CD-ROM compilation of which Vol.1 published in 2008).
White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), photo by Uditha Hettige.
A male White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) has been singing almost every day from tall tree tops in and around my garden since early last month (March). This male was trying to attract a female while establishing a territory for breeding. Its regular ‘song posts’, of which it sings at each post for a considerable time, are fairly wide apart but most of them can be seen easily from my garden.
I observed a female came on and off to one of the trees where the male was singing from and started displaying to male with its wings spreading out showing distinct white patch in the wings.
I assume the male has now paired out with the female and nesting somewhere within the territory which male has established as now frequency of singing of the male has reduced a lot. The White-throated Kingfishers do not sing like this outside their breeding season.
Sound track below features song of the male kingfishers, recorded on April 29.
After the recent rains the Common Shrub Frogs (Philautus popularis) in my home garden and neighbouring gardens have started calling after dusk in these days. This is a quite small, mainly a brown frog living hidden in the foliage of plants. With rains males start singing to attract females for breeding. During dry season they are quiet and well hidden, and no sign of their presence. Also, it is not easy to spot these little frogs in the foliage even during the time when the males are singing.
Common Shrub Frog (Philautus popularis). Photo by Uditha Hettige.
Song of these small frogs may sound more like that of grasshoppers or crickets to many people, and hearing these singing frogs in home gardens may not be recognized as they are kind of a frog.
A few singing males were recorded with a Zoom H4n recorder in stereo a few days ago in my home garden. The following track features the recording made in stereo.
Males sing with their throat sac inflated and is can be seen in the photo below.
Common Shrub Frog (Philautus popularis), a singing male. Photo by Uditha Hettige.