‘Ginger beer ‘ song of Red-vented Bulbul

‘Ginger beer ‘ song of Red-vented Bulbul

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.

Deepal Warakagoda, 28 March 2012

Vocalizations of Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

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).

Deepal Warakagoda, 5 Feb.2012