The Silly-Sounding Goofbird

photo of Noisy FriarbirdAustralia is full of surprises sound-wise, not only yielding an abundance of beautiful and musical bird songs, but also laughable songs that border on the improbable, ridiculous, or absurd. Of all the sound delights that have come my way thus far during my journey Down Under, the silly chatterings and tootings of a group of Noisy Friarbirds are laughable in the extreme, bringing a smile and a chuckle to my face as I eavesdrop on their sweetly-intimate conversations:

Chatterings and tootings of Noisy Friarbirds. Recorded by Lang Elliott at dawn, 13 October 2012, Tammallallie National Park near Coonabarabran, New South Wales.

As usual, when I made this recording, I had no idea what bird was producing these endearing sounds. I must admit that I laughed out loud when I learned they were Friarbirds and saw Carl’s excellent photo … OMG, what a goofy looking bald-headed bird! This prompted me to give it my own name, The Silly-Sounding Goofbird, no doubt dreamt into existence by an Aborigine with an imaginative sense of humor.

photo of head of Noisy FriarbirdThe Noisy Friarbird (Philemon corniculatus) is a member of the honeyeater family and can be recognized by it’s naked black head (like our vultures back home) and the prominent knob near the beak. Preferring dry forests and scrubby heathlands, friarbirds feed in flocks and are usually quite noisy. The common call of the species is a loud chick-wow or churrick, heard at times in the above recording, and featured below:

Signature call of the Noisy Friarbird. Recorded by Lang Elliott at dusk, 12 October 2012, Tammallallie National Park near Coonabarabran, New South Wales.

Birds like the Noisy Friarbird draw me ever so deeply into the amazing Australian soundscape, which is quite unlike anywhere else on earth. Even the creatively fertile Peruvian Amazon would have trouble voicing anything quite so charming as the Friarbird’s silly-sounding performance.


  1. There’s a low-pitched coo in the first recording, heard in the background. It sounds like some sort of pigeon, or maybe a large dove.

    Sometimes, they almost call in unison, and some of their calls remind me of chickens. I hear some sort of parrot in the second recording.

  2. They remind me of that big, odd-shaped bird (can’t recall the name) Popeye encountered in one of his adventures – both the appearance and the voice. Tremendous recordings, Lang – thank you!

  3. As many times as I’ve visited Oz, my favorite destination, I’ve never encountered one of these birds or it’s outlandish music. Thanks for introducing me to them. All your work is priceless to me as nature is my church.

    Thank you for sharing the wealth on your great website.

  4. Lang,
    I’m a huge fan of your work ! I’ve got a Lang Elliot collection replete with cassette tapes from back in the day! I am always referring your work and site to my students. Thanks for so gracefully and enthusiastically blending art and science through your love for sound!

    All Best

    Drew Lanham
    ps–Please check out my site–

  5. That is one of the weirdest sounding birds I’ve ever heard in recordings! It kind of sounds like they’re trying to talk.

  6. Lang, Silly sounding Goofbird-you are so right! Glad you are getting all of these wonderful recordings. Your sister, Jackie

  7. They sound like a happy group. Perhaps they are gossiping and then laughing at their stories. Yes, very musical. Thanks Lang for your discoveries, and for sharing them. David.

  8. Profoundly amazing! Thanks for all of your hard work and for bringing nature sounds from far away to us here in the United States. This was so enjoyable. Thanks again!

  9. Before I read any of the above comments, I had the same thought: Jazzy! Thanks for the early-morning smile. Sounds like Spring down there!!

  10. Thanks Lang, You have made me home sick. Didn’t know I missed those birds till I heard them again today.
    To Lisa, notating the call of birds is tough work and a real exercise in aural skills. Well worth it though as sometimes its good to get the call down, without the hassle of recording equipment.
    Thanks again Lang. Keep up the good work.
    Robert Burrell

  11. Sounds like a jazz band somewhere. I think I need a glass of wine! My dog is cocking his head!
    Thanks for the smile!

  12. This is so cheerfully wonderful! The soloist sounds somewhat like a soprano sax. I could almost notate some of the music. I wonder how anyone could doubt that birds, insects, and amphibians were our first music teachers?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.