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.