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Wanderlust #43: The Melodious Forest

15 July 2019

The Melodious Forest – Papua New Guinea’s Uplands by Andrew Skeoch

We call it birdsong, but only a few bird species have vocalisations that are truly melodic. This leads to many habitats being dominated by twittery or even raucous birdsong, with those tuneful species standing out as distinctly charismatic voices.

The upland forests of Papua New Guinea however, seem unusually rich in birds with melodic voices. These mountain rainforests resound with tuneful birdsong. 

Lesser Ground Robins are the most noticeable, singing loudly and sweetly with graceful, melodic phrases. Various other robin species each have their own simpler songs, some medium-pitched, and others so high as to sound quite un-bird-like. Friendly Fantails (that is actually their species name) sing delicate arpeggio patterns, while their cousin Black Fantails give boisterous cascades of notes. Whistlers, Pitohuis and Boatbills add to the layering of sounds. Meanwhile Spotted Jewel Babblers call from the forest floor with a steady chiming on a single note that acts like a tonal centre to the other species.

There are exceptions of course. Wahnes’s Perotia is a textural contrast with loud and harsh screeches, while small groups of lorikeets skitter noisily among the treetops. Underpinning all these are fruit doves and pigeons with their lovely, booming calls. 

You can understand why I think of these as the melodious forests! 

This recording takes us high in the mountains, to over 2000 metres. This is still well below the cloudforest, and many of the species here are unique to these mid-altitude forests. The album is one continuous, 4-hour recording, allowing us to hear the rich diversity of highland Papuan birdsong.

For more information, to purchase The Melodious Forest or to explore many other field recordings, go to

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