During my last morning of recording in Australia, I managed to snag a real jewel … the musical song-duetting of a pair of Grey Butcherbirds. What a surprising and delightful “grand finale” to my adventure Down Under:
Song duets of a pair of Grey Butcherbirds. Recorded at sunrise on 6 November 2012 in Karuah National Park, north of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Intervals between duets have been reduced for your listening pleasure. © Lang Elliott, all rights reserved.
The following sonogram shows the particulars … eight songs, all being duets. I followed the pair for nearly an hour in dry forest in Karuah National Park, just north of Newcastle. The is just a small sampling of the thirty or more song duets that I captured.
If you wear headphones or earbuds, you can clearly hear the different locations of the two individuals and their relative contributions to each song outburst. I’m not entirely sure how you can tell which is the male and which is the female, but I assume that the male usually initiates the duet, with the female chiming-in to fill out the song.
From a distance the duets sound like the work of just one singer, a bright melodic outburst of considerable beauty. Only when you get close can you hear the different positions of the two contributors and appreciate the close-knit quality of the duet.
There is really no comparison to this back in the United States. Sure, female Carolina Wrens and Brown-headed Cowbirds may chatter when their mate sings, but these are pale in comparison and the female outbursts are far from being musical. I have heard musical “call duets” between pairs of Great-crested Flycatchers, but these don’t hold a candle to the butcherbirds.
Australia seems full of such surprises. Next spring, I fully expect to find myself bored with my local soundscapes and longing to hear the exquisite melodies from Oz, from that magical land below the equator where birds sing like nowhere else on earth, their songs freshly sprinkled from the heavens.
Do I plan to come back to Australia for more recording? You betcha! C’mon, I still haven’t recorded the zen-whistling Pied Butcherbird, perhaps the greatest singer of all. That’s a magnet that will surely lure me back!