The song of the red-whiskered bulbul

I have been lucky enough to spend the past couple of weeks in South East Asia, and have had the chance to experience some interesting new sound environments.  The Malaysian peninsula is apparently home to 20% of the world’s animal species, and I saw (and heard) a good portion of them at Singapore’s Night Safari.  I usually don’t really like zoos unless they have a strong environmental and animal welfare agenda, and this one I have to say seemed very committed to helping its many endangered species.

In the wild, I encountered what must have been hundreds of macaques.  There is a feeding spot in Muar, Malaysia, where they often gather during the day to get some free food.  Their calls are jarring to listen to – high pitched, extremely loud shrieks.  Quite unnerving, especially when you have run out of bananas to give them!

One of the mammals I really enjoyed listening to was the red-whiskered bubul.  As I was watching it puff up its feathers while eyeing up my breakfast, one of the locals informed me that they have annual song contests here in Koh Samui and in other parts of Thailand, featuring these birds.  These consist of around 100 contestants singing in bursts of thirty seconds, and then being marked by the judges.  How they mark them I couldn’t tell you.  I’m not sure whether I agree with the whole thing, but they do have a beautiful song.  I managed to record just a tiny snippet of one of their ‘motifs’ before it flew away.




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