Cornell Launches Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Animal Sounds, with Recordings Going Back to 1929

Ornithol­o­gists and bird watch­ers rejoice. After a dozen years, The Cor­nell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library has ful­ly dig­i­tized its near­ly 150,000 audio record­ings (a total run­ning time of 7,513 hours), rep­re­sent­ing close to 9,000 dif­fer­ent species, such as the very unset­tling-sound­ing Barred Owl (above). While the col­lec­tion also includes the sounds of whales, ele­phants, frogs, pri­mates, and oth­er ani­mals, the pri­ma­ry empha­sis here is on birds (it is a Lab of Ornithol­o­gy, after all), and there is an incred­i­ble range of calls. Cor­nell rec­om­mends some of the high­lights below:

Ear­li­est record­ing: Cor­nell Lab founder Arthur Allen was a pio­neer in sound record­ing. On a spring day in 1929 he record­ed this Song Spar­row sound­ing much as they do today

Youngest bird: This clip from 1966 records the sounds of an Ostrich chick while it is still inside the egg – and the researchers as they watch

Liveli­est wake-up call: A dawn cho­rus in trop­i­cal Queens­land, Aus­tralia is burst­ing at the seams with war­bles, squeals, whis­tles, booms and hoots

Best can­di­date to appear on a John Coltrane record: The indri, a lemur with a voice that is part moan, part jazz clar­inet

Most spines tin­gled: The incom­pa­ra­ble voice of a Com­mon Loon on an Adiron­dacks lake in 1992

Most errat­ic con­struc­tion project: the stac­ca­to ham­mer­ing sounds of a wal­rus under water

Most like­ly to be mis­tak­en for aliens arriv­ing: Birds-of-par­adise make some amaz­ing sounds – here’s the UFO-sound of a Curl-crest­ed Manu­code in New Guinea

Whether you’re an enthu­si­as­tic bird­er, prac­tic­ing sci­en­tist, or sound-sam­ple hunter, you’ll find some­thing to blow your mind at the exten­sive col­lec­tions of the Macaulay Library. Both ama­teur and pro­fes­sion­al nat­u­ral­ists, for exam­ple, can acquire, visu­al­ize, mea­sure, and ana­lyze ani­mal sounds with a free ver­sion of the Cor­nell Lab’s pro­pri­etary inter­ac­tive sound analy­sis soft­ware, Raven.

And admir­ers of the aston­ish­ing vari­ety and beau­ty of the bird-of-par­adise should stay tuned for the Bird-of-Par­adise Project web­site, launch­ing this month. Sign up to receive an email when the full site launch­es. Mean­while, watch the project’s spell­bind­ing trail­er below.

Vis­it the Cor­nell Lab of Ornithol­o­gy’s YouTube page for more fas­ci­nat­ing bird videos.

Relat­ed Con­tent

Para­Hawk­ing in Nepal: What It’s Real­ly Like to Fly with Birds

The Wild King­dom: Brought to You by Mutu­al of Oma­ha (and YouTube)

Josh Jones is a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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