Ugandan Sad Trombone Bird
August 11, 2016 4:15 PM   Subscribe

On a recent trip to Uganda, we heard a really interesting bird song (insect song?) that I simply haven't been able to identify. The best way I can describe it is something like the sad trombone sound but with a very electronic sound to it. How can I find out what type of bird made this sound?

This was outside Iganga. Unfortunately, I didn't get a recording (but it was pretty distinct, I'd recognize it immediately) and never saw the animal that produced it. Someone pointed out that it could have been an insect (maybe a weird cricket or something?).

I think it's pretty unlikely that anyone reading this would immediately recognize what bird I'm talking about from my admittedly-terrible description. So my question is ultimately, how the heck do I figure out what I heard? I found a couple sites with bird calls and none of them match. Are there better resources?
posted by icebourg to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It wasn't a hadeda (or hadada) ibis, was it? (found by googling "Ugandan wildlife sounds," following a "top ten favourite sounds" link, and clicking on possible matches)
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 4:52 PM on August 11, 2016

This AfriCam site has lots of animal sounds to listen to.

I wonder if you could email and ask the Uganda Wildlife Authority?

By the way, I visited Uganda many years ago and heard an animal sound in the night in the Budongo Forest that I could only describe as sounding like a pterodactyl (like I would know what one sounded like?!?). Turned out it was a kind of cute little rodent called a tree hyrax. It's hard to imagine this creature making this sound. In any case don't rule out mammals!

Hope you identify your mystery Ugandan creature!
posted by kittydelsol at 5:30 PM on August 11, 2016

Did you hear this vocalization at night or during the day?
posted by ChuraChura at 5:57 PM on August 11, 2016

Response by poster: ChuraChura: I only heard it in the mornings, from like 6am-11. Or so.

Kittydelsol: thanks for these resources! Much appreciated. I'll check them out. And ugh. Didn't think about other types of animals. That'll make the search harder, but it's good to think about!

cde: thanks but what I heard was a lot more "electronic" than that. Not sure how else to describe it.
posted by icebourg at 6:45 PM on August 11, 2016

I googled "animals that sound like robots" and came up with this:

This Bird Sounds Just Like A Computer Game (you hear most of it closer to the middle to end of the video)

5 Birds That Should Have Been Cast As R2D2
(maybe the Australian Magpie? Though it isn't native to Uganda/the African continent.)

I really want to know! This critter, whatever it is, sounds amazing.
posted by nightrecordings at 6:57 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Iganga is pretty far from forest or bush, and it's rare to find loud mammals during the day in urban or village-type settings, so I'd guess that your instinct - bird or insect - is probably correct.

There are some East African mammal and bird vocalizations at Wild Solutions. Tom Butynski and Yvonne de Jong are also pretty renowned experts, so you might ask them if they know of other places to look up East African bird and insect vocalizations. The British Library has a huge collection of Kenyan bird songs; if you can narrow it down to a particular type of bird, it might be worth clicking around in there.

Just in case - though I doubt it - was it the call this colobus monkey is making (not the hooting, but the one that sounds sort of mechanical)? Black and white colobus groups will often vocalize in chorus like that in the morning, so if you were near forest, these guys might have been in it.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:29 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: nightrecordings: Those videos are nuts! It really shows how some birds can imitate other sounds, and sound completely crazy. This was one of my thoughts when I heard this sound, maybe the bird was just imitating a car sound or ringtone or something else it had heard. We were pretty close to Iganga, which is pretty densely populated with people. So it had plenty of exposure to cell phones and other human noises.

ChuraChura: Those resources are really really helpful! I haven't listened to all of the songs on that Kenyan bird songs page, but the purple glossy starling there is the closest I've heard so far. It has that almost electronic sound to it (though what I heard sounded a little more electronic than this guy), and what I heard continued for more than one call. It was sort of like "WAH-WAh-Wah-wah-wah". Where it was this electronic song gradually growing dimmer over the period of a second or two. The glossy starling sounds sort of like one of those WAHs, so I wonder if it ever makes several of them in a row. I've been YouTubing videos of this bird, and not finding many that even replicate the song from that site, though, let alone what I heard. So I think that's close but not quite it.

I really wish I tried to catch a recording of what I heard. It was just silent enough I'm not sure my phone would have picked it up, but trying to describe what it sounds like is just about impossible!
posted by icebourg at 9:11 AM on August 12, 2016

« Older Origin of a quote purported to be by Tecumseh   |   What kind of rash is this? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.