Audio Biodiversity: Now You Can Hear the Unique Sounds of 7,000 Species

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library now makes it easier than ever to listen to field recordings from your favorite animals.

Thanks to Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library—the world's largest and oldest scientific archive of biodiversity audio and video recordings—everyone can now be an armchair bird watcher. In their expansive digital library, sounds from a variety of different, albeit equally fabulous creatures like the bald eagle and sea turtle have all been recorded and digitized for their massive archive. More than 7,000 species are represented, with a heavy emphasis on birds. The university has been documenting the lives of birds and other animals since as far back as 1915, with the earliest recordings dating to 1929, but never before has their extensive collection been available for public use, until now.

Listening to our furry and feathered friends give us a better understanding of who they are, the library's director Mike Webster explains. “Sound is a huge component of most animals, including most vertebrates and insects," he said. "I think you don’t really know an animal until you pay attention to the sounds it makes. I feel people are missing a lot about nature itself if they don’t experience it with their ears.”

Another interesting aspect of the archive—which took 12 years to complete—is that it's essentially crowd sourced. While their team is hard at work in the field collecting noises, they also encourage amateur animal lovers to go out and make their own recordings for the collection. The result of this collaboration has led to over 150,000 audio clips with a total run time of 7,513 hours (313 days). I imagine that's enough to keep the armchair bird watcher occupied for quite some time.

Here are some highlights from the archive:


A Common Loon

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