An Audio Guide to the Birds of Senegal / Un guide audio des oiseaux du Sénégal

Introducing what will hopefully be a useful resource to some readers out there and more generally for birders visiting Senegal or The Gambia!

Until recently, the only comprehensive sets of sound recordings of West African birds were limited to CD collections that are only available commercially, often at a high price – and some are no longer for sale. The most comprehensive of these is the African bird sounds CD set by sound recorder pioneer Claude Chappuis, published nearly 20 years ago accompanied by an extensive booklet, covering 1043 species. As Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire wrote in her extensive review in the African Bird Club Bulletin, this work marks “a landmark in African bioacoustic publications, one that will (and must) be widely used in the field and which will remain unsurpassed for many years to come.”

AfricanBirdSounds_Chappuis

 

The only other relevant audio guide for West Africa published so far is the Bird Song of The Gambia & Senegal CD set produced by Cive Barlow and colleagues in 2002, covering 265 species, but it is no longer available it seems; similar initiatives have covered e.g. East Africa (East African Bird Sounds by Brian Finch) and Zambia (Bob Stjernstedt’s Sounds of Zambian Wildlife).

BirdSongGambiaSenegal_Barlow

 

But who still uses CDs? Digital field guides under the form of Android apps or e-books have made their appearance in recent years, and these often contain a range of sounds for each species – Borrow & Demey’s Birds of Senegal and The Gambia being the most comprehensive, but it’s only available as an Apple Book for iOS devices.

And then there’s xeno-canto.

We’ve often referred to this amazing resource on this blog, but what exactly is xeno-canto? The open-access initiative called the xeno-canto project was established in 2005 by Xeno-canto Foundation, aiming to popularise bird sound recording worldwide, improve accessibility of bird sounds, and increase knowledge of bird sounds. Initially focused on the Neotropics, it soon expanded to all other world regions, including Africa in 2008.

The collection continues to grow substantially: at the time of writing there are 31,275 recordings of 1,974 species for Africa (just over two years ago, in October 2016 there were “just” 19,813 recordings of 1,841 species). Needless to say, much more than any of the audio guides mentioned above, “XC” truly revolutionised the way birders and researchers alike can freely share, access, and use sound recordings. All for free.

XC_Banner

Now for the audio guide:

It’s actually a simple xeno-canto “set”, available through this link:

https://www.xeno-canto.org/set/2242

The selection of 746 sound recordings included in this set cover 450 species, or 66% of the total number recorded in Senegal (677). This is about three quarters of the 600 or so regular species in the country, i.e. excluding vagrants and birds with uncertain status. Vagrants as well as scarce species that typically do not usually call or sing when encountered in Senegal (e.g. Honey Buzzard), or otherwise silent non-breeding visitors (e.g. harriers and other raptors, Palearctic ducks, storks, seabirds), were not included in the set.

There are of course still a few missing species, including several for which there are no recordings at all available on xeno-canto, most notably White-crested Tiger Heron, Beaudouin’s and Brown Snake Eagles, Denham’s Bustard, Cassin’s Honeybird, African Hobby, Sennar Penduline Tit and Crimson Seedcracker. Hopefully these will be added in the near future, in which case I will of course add them to the set. Likewise, for others such as Greater Painted-Snipe (no recordings from Africa on xeno-canto!), Red-headed Quelea and a few other scarce songbirds there are no decent recordings.

riverprinia_stlouis_20160910_img_5141_edited

River Prinia / Prinia aquatique, Saint-Louis, Sept. 2016

 

The sounds included in this set were for the main part recorded in Senegal or The Gambia, and where not possible I tried to prioritise recordings from neighbouring countries. This is relevant for particular subspecies that show vocal differences between taxa, but also because there may be regional dialects within populations. I chose to include my own recordings where possible, simply because I’m in full control of these and can make sure that sound types, subspecies and other attributes are appropriately registered, and these sounds definitely won’t be deleted.

Do keep in mind that many species have a large repertoire of call types – advertising song, territorial song, subsong, contact call, flight call, warning calls, etc. – and not all are represented in this collection. Also, some species exhibit a great deal of individual variation, and then there’s those that weave in mimicry of other species such as robin-chats. Additional details on behaviour, habitat, background species and other relevant information are provided for many of the recordings.

Northern Red Bishop / Euplecte franciscain

Northern Red Bishop / Euplecte franciscain, Diembering, Oct. 2016

 

The recording set is accessible to anyone – no app, no account needed – from any internet -enabled device, while recordings can be downloaded as mp3 files for offline use (but please… take it easy on the “tape-luring”, i.e. attracting birds with playback of their calls or song as a means to see the bird). Thank you xeno-canto.

Please do note the Creative Commons license which stipulates that material can be freely redistributed with modifications and for non-commercial purposes, with acknowledgement of authorship (or “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike”, CC BY-NC-SA). Some recordings by other recordists may be published under a slightly different CC license. 

Using the audio guide is pretty easy:

  • Go to this URL: www.xeno-canto.org/set/2242
  • Browse the list of species, by searching on the vernacular or scientific name (note that xeno-canto is available in many languages: scroll to the bottom of the page to switch to another language). See sample screenshot of a search for sunbirds here.
  • Change the format of the list if a format other than “Concise” is preferred (Detailed, Codes, Sonograms)
  • Download recordings as mp3 files, by clicking the download button
  • For each species, access additional sounds, range map, and links to external resources (AVoCet, Macauley Library by the Cornell Lab, HBW, BirdLife, etc.)
YellowthroatedLongclaw_Diembering_20170307_IMG_0034

Yellow-throated Longclaw / Sentinelle à gorge jaune, Diembering. March 2017

 

Finally, while writing about bird sound recording I can’t not mention The Sound Approach collective which has done so much in recent years to put the importance of bird vocalisations in identification and taxonomy on the forefront, and to firmly establish birders’ interest in sound recording. It’s only after reading their highly acclaimed The Sound Approach to Birding (2006) that I started to better understand bird vocalisations and that I became a fairly active sound “recordist”. Still one of my favourite bird books! Maybe one of these days I’ll write up something about sound recording and sound birding. After all, up to 80% of birdwatching is actually… bird listening!

SoundApproachToBirding

 

 

(Résumé français)

Une compilation de sons d’oiseaux du Sénégal, ce “jeu” xeno-canto  contient des enregistrements de chants et différents types de cris pour une sélection d’espèces, soit 746 enregistrements couvrant 450 espèces. Les visiteurs rares et les migrateurs qui sont généralement silencieux dans les quartiers d’hivernage ne sont pas inclus. Il manque bien sûr plusieurs espèces, mais on espère que des enregistrements pour celles-ci deviennent prochainement disponibles et on les ajoutera alors au jeu. De même, plusieurs espèces existent bien dans la collection xeno-canto mais il n’y a pas actuellement des enregistrements de bonne qualité.

La plupart des enregistrements proviennent du Sénégal ou des pays voisins, et pour l’essentiel il s’agit de mes propres prises de son. A noter que de nombreuses espèces ont un large répertoire de types de sons (chant territorial, “subsong”, cri de contact, cri de vol, cris d’alarme, etc.), et que toutes ne sont pas représentées dans cette collection. En outre, certaines espèces présentent de nombreuses variations individuelles, puis il y a celles qui imitent d’autres espèces telles que les cossyphes. Des détails supplémentaires sur le comportement, l’habitat, les espèces en arrière-plan et d’autres informations pertinentes sont fournis pour de nombreux enregistrements.

Ce jeu d’enregistrements est librement accessible à chacun – pas besoin d’installer d’application, pas besoin de compte utilisateur – et ce depuis n’importe quel appareil avec connexion internet ; les prises de son peuvent être téléchargés en format mp3 pour utilisation hors connexion (mais attention de ne pas abuser de la repasse pour faire sortir les oiseaux !).

Veuillez noter la licence Creative Commons qui stipule que le matériel peut être librement redistribué avec des modifications et à des fins non commerciales, avec mention de l’auteur (ou “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike”, CC BY-NC-SA). Certains enregistrements d’autres auteurs peuvent être publiés sous une licence CC légèrement différente.

L’utilisation du guide audio est simple :

  • Allez à la page www.xeno-canto.org/set/2242
  • Parcourez la liste d’espèces, en cherchant sur le nom français ou scientifique (à noter que xeno-canto est disponible en plusieurs langues : allez jusqu’au bas de la page pour modifier la langue). Capture d’écran en guise d’exemple d’une recherche sur les souimangas ici.
  • Modifiez le format de la liste si vous préférez un format autre que “Concis” (Détaillé, Codes, Sonogrammes)
  • Téléchargez les enregistrements en format mp3, en cliquant le bouton de téléchargement
  • Pour chaque espèce, accédez à des sons supplémentaires, la carte de répartition, et des liens vers des ressources externes (AVoCet, Macauley Library par the Cornell Lab, HBW, BirdLife etc.)

 

CrestedLark_PNLB_IMG_2888_edited_small

Crested Lark / Cochevis huppé

 

 

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7 responses to “An Audio Guide to the Birds of Senegal / Un guide audio des oiseaux du Sénégal”

  1. Frédéric Bacuez says :

    On s’est donné le mot ! J’ai actualisé ma dernière note (‘Lire, voir, écouter’), d’hier, pour Noël, qui annonçait ton ‘jeu’ sur Xeno-Canto… Profité pour réparer un oubli (il y en a sans doute d’autres): les 11 CD de Chappuis, c’est impardonnable… Amitiés. F. pour Ornithondar

  2. José María Fernández says :

    Very interesting and very useful! Thanks.

  3. Paul Robinson says :

    Brilliant! I’ll enjoy using it. I wonder if it is possible to download all the files in one go? maybe not, as the licenses are sometimes different?

    • bram says :

      Thanks Paul! Recordings can only be downloaded as individual mp3 files, but note that all sound recordings can indeed be downloaded regardless of the license. Now that we have high speed internet in Dakar (yes!) I’ll see if I can maybe put together a folder on Google Drive or similar.

      • Hilde Vandevoorde says :

        Hi Bram, missing the cd’s I was wondering if you were able to make a folder of all the Bird Sounds. As I am a Birdwatcher first of all with my ears 🙂

      • bram says :

        Hi Hilde. I don’t have access to all the sounds as off-line files, but you can download them yourself. If you have an internet connection while in the field then you can browse the sounds online. I know this isn’t ideal, but hope it’s still useful. I’m also first and foremost a bird-listener rather than bird-watcher!

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