A Song for May 06

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Click the sonogram to hear and see the sound.

This bird was singing in a subtropical evergreen forest at an elevation of 3200 feet on the flanks of QingCheng Mountain, an hour's drive from Chengdu, Sichuan, China. It's a simple song, much less exuberant and melodious than the songs of American orioles, but then, Old World orioles (Family Oriolidae) are in a different family entirely from New World orioles, which are in the blackbird family, Icteridae. This one is big and yellow, with a black nape, and its song was appropriately exotic and mysterious for an unseen singer at a site considered one of the birthplaces of Taoism.

Our interest in the vocal repertoires of the chickadees and titmice (Family Paridae) had brought Sandra Gaunt and me to China for the second time, because this region of the world is the present-day center of diversity for parid species, and is hypothesized to be the place of origin of the family. But each time, in October 1989 as well as May 1991, we paid a visit to QingChengShan before heading into the high country for the real work. Nothing like climbing a little mountain to get ready for big ones. I would love to do it all again, but revisiting those places with old tapes and notes has its own rewards.

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