Kruger Park Birding | The Dawn Chorus

Rufous-naped Lark.
Image : Rufous-naped Lark

Birdsong is the soundtrack of the bushveld. One of the joys of birding in Kruger is to be up early enough to experience the dawn chorus of doves and other early risers that mark the start of the bushveld day. At the other end of the spectrum are the haunting calls of owls and nightjars which continue long after the late-night campfire carousers have fallen silent.


Birdsong can be defined as a series of notes that form a recognisable pattern. Birds appear to both instinctively know how to sing, yet also acquire new singing skills through learning. Robins in particular are good mimics, incorporating the calls of scores of other birds into their repertoires, with individuals may having up to eight different recognisable songs. Some complex songs may include many notes per second!

Birds generally make a noise when they lay claim to territory, try and attract mates or signal danger. Each of these can trigger vastly different sounds from birds of the same species.

Birdsong is generally a male phenomenon and is often linked to courtship. It's no surprise that humans associate birdsong with love. We share certain physiological structures of the ear with birds and can relate to their sound range and melody structure, but be warned of projecting the notion of love onto song birds - some scientists believe male birds sing more to keep other males out of their territory than to try and impress the females they're wooing!

'What about the dawn chorus? Why, stand at the edge of any indigenous forest on a bright November morning and hear the new day acclaimed by thirty or more different species of birds, the chorus of warblers, white-eyes, flycatchers and bulbuls forming a background to the loud, deep calls of turacos and trogons, the high whistles of cuckoos, the bell-like notes of shrikes, and the high, pure songs of thrushes and robins. These are but a few examples of what can be heard; for those who would listen, the rewards are infinite.'
Ken Newman - "Birdlife in South Africa"

The Kruger Hit Parade

Bird
Song Characteristic
African Fish-Eagle
The River Crier: piercing, echoing call that symbolises the sound of Africa
White-browed Robin-Chat*
The Caruso of Songbirds whose call includes the melodious warning 'don't you do it, don't you do it'; its repertoire is eloquently described by author-photographer Peter Johnson as 'rich in tone, loud in volume and varied in vocabulary'
Black headed Oriole
The Liquid Melodian: rising and falling, rich, liquid, piping and bubbling notes; the Black-headed Oriole can mimic the Jackal Buzzard and other birds for good measure
Gorgeous Bush-Shrike
Whistling Bushveld Banjos: loud, brassy whistling duets with crackles and rasping sounds for contrast
Brown-crowned Tchagra*
The Warbling Minstrel: a warbling whistle of single notes that become slower and high pitched, interspersed with trills and harsh rasping sounds if alarmed
Woodland Kingfisher
The Rapper of the Woodlands with a laugh-like, high, staccato intro, descending into machine-gun trills and loud raucous chirping
Black-collared Barbet
Two-part Harmony Show with clear synchronised duets between partners that sound like 'two puddy two puddy', sometimes becoming harsh and rasping
Eastern Nicator*
Babble on Babylon: rich and loud bubbling cadence with a few rasps and mimic calls
Tropical Boubou
Drama Diva: varied repertoire of high-pitched calls, whistles, snarls and croaks, all held together with tropical style
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove
King of the Blues: the mournful bushveld sound of 'my father's dead, my mother's dead, oh oh oh'
Red-faced Cisticola
Sing it Loud Sing it Proud: a loud, ringing crescendo of notes with an intriguing after-chuckle
Purple-crested Turaco*
Cock of the Crescendo: starting quietly and then building up into a repetitive yet musical 'kok kok kok

Summer Bushveld Soundtrack
Winter Bushveld Soundtrack
Woodland Kingfisher, Red-chested Cuckoo (Piet-my-Vrou), Willow Warbler, Green-backed Camaroptera*, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Diderick Cuckoo, African Emerald Cuckoo, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black-crowned Tchagra
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Black-headed Oriole, Black-collared Barbet, Kurrichane Thrush, Collared Sunbird, White-bellied Sunbird, Chinspot Batis, White-browed Robin-Chat*, Brown-headed Parrot, Purple-crested Turaco*