Songs and calls of the Tiger Shrike

on 12th December 2009

Lena Chow was at Singapore’s Hindhede Park on the evening of 9th December 2009 when she heard a constant soft song from amongst the low branches. She looked about for a minute or so and saw a juvenile Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus) singing a quiet song to itself on a low perch. It wasn’t too bothered by her presence and continued singing when she left five minutes later.

The soft song was apparently a seldom-heard musical warbling, often made from within cover. Or could it be the subdued subsong of a courting male – although it was rather the wrong season for this? The song could only be heard if one is just within 5 metres of the tree.

The tiger Shrike has a variety of harsh calls including a loud, repeated territorial call, a chattering alarm call and a softer trilling call. These are often made from within cover but territorial males call from a prominent perch. Alarm calls can often be heard 10-20 metres away.

The scolding chatter of the Tiger Shrike can be heard HERE.

According to Yosef (2008), “the song of most Lanius is relatively rarely uttered and is not far-carrying, although territorial calls are important.” The vocalisation of a male becomes territorial defence once he has bonded with a female.

So far, local birdwatchers have ignored calls and songs except basic recordings. It is time to start giving vocalisation the attention it deserves. Concludes Lena, “..looks like birders now need to carry a recorder, in addition to a camera and bino…”

Yosef, R., 2008. Family Laniidae (Shrikes). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D. A. Christie (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 13. Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 732-796.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

3 Responses

  1. Appreciate this posting.

    Have occasionally heard the softer “warbling’ of the Tiger Shrike in our garden. Often hard to spot the bird when doing this (often extended) singing as it is in a dense tree. Was confused in the past as to who it was until I saw the bird
    actually making the call.

    My wife used to call these the “reformed” shrikes as they sound so polite & sweet.

  2. Yes, I have noted a Brown Shrike singing very quietly and for long durations, day after day, at my garden in Pasir Pangjang (Singapore) sometime in the late 1980s, and again here at King’s Avenue (Singapore) a few years back. I believe I discussed this in one of the egroups, but not sure which one. I found that many people seem to think that there is always a “survival” explanation (what I call crass-evolutionism) and that these are males practising their songs ready for return to breeding grounds later. Maybe. Could be. Personally, listening to these and other birds in my garden, I am convinced that some singing, particularly in this case, is simply for pleasure, because they can, not for a “reason”.

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