Editor's note: The hollow, repetitive calls of barbets in the genus Psilopogon are a familiar background sound in tropical and subtropical Asia. In Japan, the calls would be completely out of place. Pictured above, clockwise from top left, are Chinese Barbet P. faber, Blue-throated Barbet P. asiaticus, Golden-throated Barbet P. franklinii, and the species in question here, Taiwan Barbet P. nuchalis. All copyright 2010-2017 by Craig Brelsford.

Yo’, Marty! Barbets Don’t Live in Japan

Editor’s note: The hollow, repetitive calls of barbets in the genus Psilopogon (above) are a familiar background sound in tropical and subtropical Asia. In Japan, however, the sounds of barbets are never heard, a point that may have eluded famed director Martin Scorsese.

I recently saw Scorsese’s Silence. At various points in the film, Taiwan Barbet Psilopogon nuchalis is audible in the background, even though the story takes place around Nagasaki.

Here is a snippet from Silence in which the barbets are particularly loud.

Silence was filmed in Taiwan. Scorsese probably was aware of the barbet sounds and left them in for a wild, woodsy feel. Too bad barbets don’t occur on Kyushu or anywhere else in Japan.

Can someone let Marty know?

(FICTIONAL) UPDATE: I got in touch with Marty! Here’s how the conversation went:

BRELSFORD: Yo’, Marty, you got the wrong birds in the wrong place in Silence. You really oughta take us birders into consideration.

SCORSESE: You talkin’ to me?

Featured photo, clockwise from top left: Blue-throated Barbet Psilopogon asiaticus, 26 Jan. 2012, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan; Chinese Barbet P. faber, 16 Jan. 2013, Jianfengling, Hainan; Golden-throated Barbet P. franklinii, 21 Feb. 2010, Tengchong, Yunnan; and Taiwan Barbet P. nuchalis, 21 Feb. 2013, National Pingtung University, Taiwan. All by Craig Brelsford.

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Craig Brelsford

Craig Brelsford lives in Shanghai, where he runs shanghaibirding.com and studies Chinese at the Shanghai University of Engineering Sciences. Craig is the top-ranked eBirder in China, having noted more than 930 species. Craig is also the top-ranked eBirder in Shanghai (320+ species). A 1993 graduate of the University of Florida, Craig was an award-winning newspaper editor in the United States for 10 years. In 2002, Craig earned a master's in business administration from the University of Liege in Belgium. Craig has lived in Shanghai since 2007.

2 thoughts on “Yo’, Marty! Barbets Don’t Live in Japan”

  1. Hi Craig, I agree with you that it can be quite annoying to get ripped of the feeling that the surrounding is authentic – in this case that the scenes are filmed in a different location than the action is said to be performed. However, this happens all the time, even in nature films where you’d expect producers to be more careful to pick the right background sounds. Just yesterday, I watched the National Geographic portrait of the Amur River (“The Black Dragon” – episode 2 out of 3). On several occasions, there were Eastern Wood-Pewee and Red-eyed Vireo in the background, obviously in the wrong continent. Funny enough, the same pewee call was heard in the first episode of BBC’s Planet Earth 2 that I watched last Sunday. In that case, I think it was when pictures from an offshore Panama island were shown, and even though North American wood-pewees migrate through Panama, they would not be calling that much… Nowadays, I have stopped being annoyed, and see it as an amusement and privilege to notice these things! 🙂

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