Dec 12

As the festive season gets into full swing, we’re sure a few of you will be warming up your vocal cords in preparation for some carolling action. To help get you in the mood for some musical mayhem, we’ve had a root through the ARKive collection to find some of the species that might make good (or bad!) additions to any party of vibrant vocalists.

1. Delightful duet – Western hoolock gibbon

The call of the western hoolock gibbon is as energetic as the species itself, which can swing gracefully through the trees of its forest home at speeds of up to 56km/hour. The impressive vocal gymnastics of this species can be heard over great distances, so this primate would be a great asset to any raucous carolling choir!

Western hoolock gibbon image

The western hoolock gibbon can move through the trees at up to 56km/hr

 

2. Party percussion – Wart-biter cricket

The wart-biter cricket is so-called as a result of the old Swedish practice of allowing the crickets to bite warts from the skin. Yet despite its somewhat gruesome-sounding name, this dark green bush cricket species is rather handsome. It produces a distinctive song which consists of a series of rapidly repeated clicks which occur in short bursts, sometimes lasting for several minutes.

 

Wart-biter cricket image

The wart-biter cricket has a distinctive song

 

3. Honking harmonies – Emperor penguin

Emperor penguin colonies may be very noisy and somewhat tuneless places to be, but also extremely cold ones! This species can survive in temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees C, and withstand windspeeds of up to 200km/hour. Emperor penguins might not win any prizes as far as pleasant-sounding vocals go, but this species certainly deserves top marks for its parental care. While the female heads seawards to feed after laying her egg, the male will stay put without feeding for four months, in constant darkness, to incubate the egg. Now that’s dedication!

Emperor penguin image

An emperor penguin adult and chick

 

4. Jolly jingles – Sidewinder

Despite being the stoutest of all the rattlesnake species, this reptilian rattler can grow up to 80cm in length. It is found in south-western U.S.A and north-western Mexico, where it ambushes small lizard and rodent prey from the cover of isolated shrubs. The sidewinder could provide some interesting percussion accompaniment to a group of carollers, although I’m not sure how close you would want to get to one of these venomous critters!

Sidewinder image

The sidewinder has an interesting method of moving across loose sand

 

5. Baritone beast – North Atlantic right whale

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest of the large whales, and produces haunting noises which would add a lovely atmosphere to any singing party. However, its vocalisations have also been described as ‘groans, moans and belches’, so perhaps it would be best to keep this species on the carolling reserve list?!

North Atlantic right whale image

North Atlantic right whales have a range of calls

 

6. Warbling wonder – Blackbird

Many of you avid music-lovers will recognise the beautiful song of the blackbird, and would be happy to have this musical avian in your carolling group. This species produces a range of vocalisations, including a loud alarm call which has been described as ‘pli-pli-pli’.

Blackbird image

The blackbird has a beautiful song

 

7. Choral creatures – Bright-eyed frog (Boophis albilabris)

Does anyone else think that the bright-eyed frog has a call that sounds strangely like squeaky rubber?! This large tree frog, whose scientific species name albilabris means ‘white-lipped’ (can you guess why?!), can grow up to 81mm in length. The bright-eyed frog is endemic to Madagascar, where it can be found in moist rainforests.

Bright-eyed frog image

The scientific name of this species means 'white-lipped'

 

8. Tuneless terrors – Guatemalan black howler

The Endangered Guatemalan black howler might look a bit miserable, but it certainly likes to make a lot of noise! In this species, which is threatened by hunting and habitat destruction, the adult males are by far the loudest, and their call can be heard over several kilometres away. The Guatemalan black howler also has a long, dense, silky coat, which might be an asset for keeping warm on a carolling expedition!

Guatemalan black howler image

Guatemalan black howlers certainly know how to make a lot of noise!

 

9. Squawky solo – Galapagos penguin

This feathered fellow certainly seems to be putting a lot of effort into its call, but if this were an audition, I’m not so sure the Galapagos penguin would be offered a solo!

This species is the most northerly of all penguins, and sadly, as of 2007, there were just 1,000 individuals left in the world.

Galapagos penguin image

The Galapagos penguin's call is not the most tuneful!

 

10. Cacophonous canines – Grey wolf

The grey wolf is a highly social and intelligent species of canid, living in packs of between 5 and 12 individuals. As well as scent-marking, the grey wolf uses howling as a way of advertising territorial boundaries. It is an effective way of avoiding encounters with other packs, which can lead to fatal battles. Sadly, I don’t think this species would make an ideal choir member, as the individuals don’t seem to be able to howl in tune!

Grey wolf image

The grey wolf howls to advertise territorial boundaries

Let us know about your favourite mammalian music-makers, avian arias or other cool calls that you find!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

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