Harry R. Schwartz

Code writer, sometime Internet enthusiast, attractive nuisance.

The author at the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris, November 2022. hacker news gitlab sourcehut pinboard librarything 1B41 8F2C 23DE DD9C 807E A74F 841B 3DAE 25AE 721B


British Columbia



What Bird Is That?


Published .
Tags: birds, personal.

Update: These days I’d probably just open up Merlin on my phone and have it automatically identify the bird for me as I listened to it. But xeno-canto’s still a remarkable database of birdsong!

My wife Jenny’s been working with a non-profit in Kenya for the last year and a half. She’s mostly been remote, but last November I tagged along on one of her visits and we spent a few weeks in East Africa together.

Those linked photo albums make the trip look terribly exciting (and it was, don’t get me wrong!), but we spent most of our time at her company’s office in Kisumu. The office is, essentially, just a house surrounded by trees with a couple of outbuildings, so we’d often work out on the porch and listen to the birds.

We heard an especially distinctive bird call countless times every day. We really loved the call and strongly associate it with the place, but we never saw the bird that made it and couldn’t identify it!


It turns out that the bird we’d been hearing was the red-eyed dove, Streptopelia semitorquata, a thoroughly common little fella that ranges throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

So, how’d I figure this out? After a lot of fruitless clicking around through videos and birding lists, I came upon xeno-canto, an enormous crowd-sourced repository of birdsong from all over the world. After tweaking my search parameters and clicking through dozens of recorded calls, I eventually came upon the right one.

The key points of this story are that:

  1. Kenya has some pretty cool birds, and
  2. xeno-canto is a terrific resource for identifying them by song!

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