Gray Crowned Crane photo

Sounds and Photos of Life and Wildlife in Tanzania

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In late February and early March of 2006 we visited northern Tanzania to see and hear the wildlife and birds. The abundance of birds and mammals was stunning, and the openness of the landscape made it easy to observe them. We spent most of our time in national parks -- Arusha, Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire -- and in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We were there at the end of the dry season (it had been very dry). We had some rain, the land began to green, and some birds began working on nests.

Bird Songs and Calls

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

Gyps rueppellii

 photo of griffon Vultures feeding

These vultures make a variety of roars, screeches and hisses as they compete for access to a zebra carcass. The griffon's heads and necks, which normally are gray, were covered with gore from digging deep into the carcass. There were no other scavengers present except a couple of white-backed vultures that sat quietly several meters away.

Helmeted Guineafowl

Numida meleagris

Helmeted Guineafowl

The guineafowl making this call was displaying 20 feet up a tree in a wooded area. An African mourning dove can be heard calling loudly in the background, along with other birds. Helmeted guineafowl are very common in the areas we visited. The bird in the photo wanted to share our lunch.

Hartlaub's Bustard

Eupodotis hartlaubii

Hartlaub's Bustard Displaying

Male Hartlaub's bustards make a three part mating display call -- a very quiet "rip", followed about 2.7 seconds later by a loud gulp, and after another second by a prolonged "ooom". To make these sounds the bird inflates air sacs in its neck (see photo).

Hartlaub's Turaco

Tauraco hartlaubii

The common call of Hartlaub's turaco is basically a series of hoarse khaws. These birds were calling from trees roughly 50 meters away.

White-browed Scrub-robin

Cercotrichas leucophrys

Male's songs vary individually and by locality. Here are examples of two slightly different songs by one bird.

Cinnamon Bracken Warbler

Bradypterus cinnamomeus

Song is introduced by sweet notes followed by several strong harsher notes.

Hunter's Cisticola

Cisticola hunteri

These birds perch on top of low shrubs and sing loud, spirited duets; one bird sings a rolling trill while the other whistles a piping accompaniment. Here are examples of three different duets.

Slate-colored Boubou

Laniarius funebris

Songs are loud and variable. This remarkable song was the only one of several heard on the trip that I was able to record. (Same song repeated once).

Red-billed Buffalo-weaver

Bubalornis niger

Male's display song. The bird was vigorously displaying in a small acacia tree by spreading its tail and extending and flapping its wings. The display appears to include bill clicks (listen carefully). There were several nests in the tree. Here are a few calls made by the male while not displaying.

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Mammal Sounds

Common Zebra

Equus quagga

A zebra stallion makes a barking bray, which he sometimes uses to gather his harem. This was recorded near a water hole where many zebra were wading and very actively moving about. Rain was imminent.

Herd Sounds

Connochaetes taurinus

These moos and herd sounds were recorded in an area where common wildebeests (brindled gnu; Connochaetes taurinus) and common zebras (Equus quagga) were grazing. Female wildebeests and calves make lowing sounds, but I did not see the particular animals making the calls.

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Maasai Music

Here are two examples of a cappella music performed by groups of Maasai singers.

Maasai song 1

Recorded at a boma not far from the Naabi gate to Serengeti National Park.

Maasai song 2

Recorded at E Unuto. Rhythm changes several times. Performers were about 75 feet away.

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Click on a picture to see a larger version.

photo of Hartlaub's Bustard foraging

Male Hartlaub's Bustard Foraging

This is what Hartlaub's bustard looks like when it is not displaying (see recording above for picture of displaying bustard).

photo of female Hartlaub's Bustard Foraging. Photo by Mike Gladwin

Female Hartlaub's Bustard Foraging

Here's the target of the male's calling and displaying. Photo by Mike Gladwin.

Lilac-breasted Roller Photo

Lilac-breasted Rollers

These birds are fairly common but strikingly beautiful.

Lilac-breasted Roller Photo

Lilac-breasted Rollers Flying

I was lucky to get this picture when the birds in the photo above flew.

Yellow-billed Stork Photo

Yellow-billed Stork

A large, beautiful, easily seen bird.

Bare-faced Go-away-bird Photo

Bare-faced Go-away-bird

This lovely fellow was almost too close to me to photograph with the lens I had. It's the size of a small American crow. There are three species of go-away-birds, one of which calls gu' way -- hence the name.

Baby Elephant Nursing Photo

Baby Elephant Nursing

This infant was only a few days old and barely able to reach mom's nipple. This mother also had two older calves with her.

Newborn Wildebeest Nursing Photo

Infant Wildebeest Nursing

This infant was born just before we arrived on the scene and was still wet. After several minutes of tottering around, falling down and getting up it found mom's udder.

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Tanzania is among the more conservation-minded nations in Africa, but human activities inside and outside of the national parks and conservation areas continue to put pressure on many animals. Many of species are declining in numbers and some, such as the Black Rhino, have declined dramatically and are critically endangered.

Go to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources's Red List to find the conservation status of species in Tanzania.

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About the recordings

Original CD-quality digital recordings were made in Tanzania with a Sennheiser MKH-60 microphone and Marantz PMD670 digital recorder (16 bits mono, 44.1 kHz). They were edited and converted to mp3 files in SoundForge.