The Amazing Metrobird

I have a little place in Greece, on a lesser known corner of the Peloponnese, on a little beach with a derelict and rarely visited acropolis from which the islands of Ψιλι, Πλατεια and (just about) Σπετσεσ are visible.


It’s a magical (and for me painfully nostalgic) place where even when we eventually installed a phone (1996),  modem (2006) and wi-fi (2013) seems eerily frozen (well baked) in time. This part of the world is home to some odd creatures: deafening cicada, scorpions, flying fish, swordfish and a plant with fruit that explode on the lightest touch.

Shore it is

One such unusual animal I have yet to (knowingly) see but I’ve been fasciated by its sound for years. It’s some kind of bird that emits a short tweet at intervals so regular that we use it as a metronome. (It sounds particularly good on beat 4 & in a bossa).

Here’s an unedited audio sample recorded on Tuesday, 7 July 2009 19:32

(non-flash) Metrobird

Notice how (separated by an unmeasured pause) there is a decent metronomic tempo established. Logic Pro X’s transient detector and beat mapping tools reveal that once a pulse is established it tends to stay within a couple of bpm. I’ve played with far worse time-keepers of the human species. Here are the numbers:


To get a feel for it, listen to the same unedited clip with a click track.

(non-flash) Metrobird with Click Not bad at all. Here’s how it sounds (again completely unedited) in the context of a percussion groove.

(non-flash) Metrobird Groove

Does anyone know what type of bird it is, an what evolutionary pressures gave it such tight timing?