Did you ‘call it’? Or do the results ruffle your feathers?
The magpie’s warbling has won over the nation, taking out number one in ABC’s search for Australia’s Favourite animal sound. The call of the magpie was a clear winner, attracting over a staggering 36% of the votes in the final round.
“The magpie’s warble is part of almost every soundscape in Australia,” says Dr Dominique Potvin, a behavioural ecologist and senior lecturer in Animal Ecology at the University of the Sunshine Coast. “Its song has regional dialects, developed through learning from older generations. So it’s an ancient song, but it keeps evolving. Magpies come together to sing these melodies in a duet or chorus by family groups, letting others know the territory they occupy,” says Dominique.
The kookaburra’s ‘laugh’ landed in second place, followed by the melodic and maniacal call of the butcherbird, voted in third.
“Like the magpie, kookaburras come together, all calling at once in what can become an overwhelming cacophony, just to establish and maintain the borders of their territory,” says Dominique. “There really is no other bird sound like it in the world, and it comes from a generally very quiet bird group – the kingfishers – making it a very special call in many ways.”
“It’s sad to know that kookaburras are declining in some areas. So we are losing this sound in many places due to development and habitat loss.”
The only two non-birds in top 10 were the banjo frog at 7th place and the cicada at 10th.
“For many of us, particular animal sounds remind us of special places, people or experiences,” says Associate Professor Jen Martin from the University of Melbourne. “For me, the fabulous call of the pobblebonk or banjo frog takes me back to happy childhood memories with my Dad, so I’m thrilled my favourite ‘under-frog’ of the competition made it into the top 10,” says Jen.
“This poll has been a great reminder that wherever you live in Australia, there are wonderful calls around you – we just need to take a moment to stop, listen and enjoy,” says Jen.
The poll opened on 31 July, attracting over 150,000 votes in total. To hear the winning sounds, visit www.abc.net.au/sounds.
Australia’s Favourite Animal Sound is the online project for National Science Week 2023, undertaken by ABC Science with funding through the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia strategy.
Talent available for interviews
Dr Dominique Potvin is a behavioural ecologist and senior lecturer in Animal Ecology at the University of the Sunshine Coast. She specialises in bioacoustics, especially birdsong, and how animal communication is impacted by human activities. She loves integrating behaviour, physiology, genetics, neurobiology and ecology to take a big-picture look at how vertebrates respond to human-made noise and other aspects of global change.
Associate Professor Jen Martin is a scientist (a wildlife ecologist by training), leads the science communication teaching program at the University of Melbourne, is a radio broadcaster on Triple R Breakfasters and Einstein A Go Go, blogger, podcaster and science writer.
Dr Jodi Rowley is a conservation biologist obsessed with amphibians. Now based at the Australian Museum and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, she has led many expeditions in search of amphibians in Australia and Southeast Asia. Jodi is the Lead Scientist of FrogID, a national citizen science project developed by the Australian Museum that has collected almost 1 million records of frogs across Australia since 2017.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki is a qualified scientist, doctor and engineer whose fun-loving personality led him to become a well-known author, science communicator and ABC regular. He is the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow at the University of Sydney.
Laura Boland, email@example.com, 0408 166 426 or Tanya Ha, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0404 083 863.
Full media kit: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/abc/
See and hear the results at: www.abc.net.au/sounds.
Australia’s Favourite Animal Sound results in order of popularity
- Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicenhas): melodious carolling
- Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae): “koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-kaa-kaa-kaa”
- Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus and Cracticus nigrogularis): melodic and maniacal
- Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus): whipcrack followed by “choo-choo”
- Lyre bird (Menura novaehollandiae): a famous mimic
- Black cockatoo (Zanda funerea): “kee-ow”
- or ‘pobblebonk’ (Limnodynastes species): “bonk bonk””
- Boobook/Guurrguurr (Ninox boobook and Ninox leucopsis): “book book”
- Fairywren (Malurus species): high tinkering trills
- Cicadas (superfamily Cicadoidea): “screeeeee
- Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae): squeals, whistles, rumbles
- Bush stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius): “weer-lo”
- Barking owl/Muurrguu (Ninox connivens): “woof woof”
- Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus): grunts and bellows
- Green tree frog (Litoria caerulea): “crawk-crawk-crawk”
- Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla): “chi chi”
- (Sarcophilus harrisii): “raaaach”
- Raven (Corvus coronoides): “ah-ah-ah-aaaah”
- Gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatu): “creak creak”
- Sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita): “raa-aach”
- Koel (Eudynamys orientalis): “koo-el”
- Dingo (Canis familiaris): “oh-ooll”
- Moaning frog (Heleioporus eyrei): “ooohhhugh”
- Sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps): “yap, yap”
- Flying fox (Pteropus species): squeeling, squabbling and cackling
- Possum (brushtail) (Trichosurus vulpecula): grunts and screeches
- Yellow-bellied glider (Petaurus australi): shrieks and gurgles
- Possum (ringtail) (Pseudocheirus peregrinus): squeeky chirrups
Quotes from animal sound experts available for use:
Quotes attributed to Dr Dominique Potvin, The University of the Sunshine Coast
“One of the most amazing things to many people about getting out of the bustling city is hearing the natural world. Whether you can recognise every single species, or you just appreciate your surroundings, there is something that happens in our brains when we escape the low rumble of human-made noise daily and immerse ourselves in natural soundscapes.
Quotes attributed to Dr Jodi Rowley, The Australian Museum and the University of New South Wales
“It can be easy to get caught up in the human-made sounds of a city – the hum of traffic or the beat of music – but the sounds of nature are around us, even in the city. Animals are communicating all around us –sometimes their sounds are familiar, and sometimes unexpectedly bizarre.
“We can learn so much by tuning in to the sounds of animals around us – the calls of frogs can alert us to the onset of the monsoon rains, the arrival of particular birds to the change of season, and disappearance or arrival of certain species can be telling of changes in local environment health.”
Quote attributed to Anthony Albrecht, musician and PhD Candidate at Charles Darwin University studying the impact of environmental art on audience attitudes and behaviour.
“Our natural soundscape shapes our identity as Australians. The loss of these sounds, while unimaginable, is a grim reality we will all face in the very near future without taking action. While celebrating our favourite animal sounds, we need to consider the precarious position of our biodiversity and advocate for stronger protection for these special creatures.”
Quotes attributed to Brad Law, Principal Research Scientist, Dept of Primary Industries NSW.
“Nature sounds are highly evocative and I’m particularly drawn to the sounds of nocturnal animals when all is quiet and most people are tucked up in bed. There’s nothing quite like being out in the forest at night and hearing other-worldly screams and screeches, but at the same time feeling relief that those species are still going about their business, largely hidden from prying human eyes.”
“Our wildlife not only produce an array of wonderful sounds, but they are becoming increasingly useful for ecologists, as technology is now able to capture and process much of this information; leading to an improved understanding of otherwise difficult-to-see animals. This technology is turning out to be a game changer in helping us monitor the changing status of many species.”
Quote attributed to Dr Nicola Hanrahan, postdoctoral research fellow at Charles Darwin University
“What I find fascinating is that these sounds are animals communicating with each other, whether that be to woo a mate, warn of danger, or beg for food. Listening to animal sounds is one of the ways that we can monitor the health of Australian species and the environment as a whole.”