World's largest natural sound archive now online

Jan 18, 2013 by Pat Leonard
The world's largest natural sound library, which is now online, includes sounds from 9,000 species, including the great-horned owl. Credit: Ruth Baker

(Phys.org)—After 12 years of work, Cornell's Macaulay Library archive, the largest collection of wildlife sounds in the world, is now digitized and fully available online.

"In terms of speed and the breadth of material now accessible to anyone in the world, this is really revolutionary," said audio curator Greg Budney. All archived analog in the collection, going back to 1929, have and can be heard for free online.

"This is one of the greatest research and conservation resources at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology," said Budney. The collection contains nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings equaling more than 10 terabytes of data with a total run time of 7,513 hours. About 9,000 species are represented. There's an emphasis on birds, but the collection also includes sounds of whales, elephants, frogs, primates and more.

World's largest natural sound archive now online
Gerrit Vyn, is a multimedia producer on Cornell's Lab of Ornithology staff, recording natural sounds in Alaska. Credit: Mike Anderson

"Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world," explained Macaulay Library Director Mike Webster. "Now, it's also the most accessible. We're working to improve search functions and create tools people can use to collect recordings and upload them directly to the archive. Our goal is to make the Macaulay Library as useful as possible for the broadest audience possible."

The recordings are used by researchers studying many questions, as well as by birders trying to fine-tune their sound identity skills. The recordings are also used in museum exhibits, movies and commercial products such as smartphone apps.

"Now ... the archival team is focusing on new material from amateur and professional recordists from around the world to really, truly build the collection," Budney said. "Plus, it's just plain fun to listen to these sounds. Have you heard the sound of a walrus underwater? It's an amazing sound."

The library of includes, for example:

  • a 1929 recording by Cornell Lab founder Arthur Allen of a : http://bit.ly/V6ZFMG;
  • an ostrich chick still inside its egg: http://bit.ly/XbaKqT;
  • a dawn chorus in tropical Queensland, Australia, bursting with warbles, squeals, whistles, booms and hoots: http://bit.ly/VI2EJV;
  • the sound of a lemur with a voice that is part moan, part jazz clarinet: http://bit.ly/VYo8l4;
  • the haunting voice of a common loon on an Adirondacks lake: http://bit.ly/13ztiY7;
  • the UFO-like call of a bird-of-paradise called the curl-crested manucode in New Guinea: http://bit.ly/Xbb1Ko; and
  • the staccato hammering sounds of a under water: http://bit.ly/13zpLbi.

Explore further: Two new species of yellow-shouldered bats endemic to the Neotropics

Related Stories

Researchers survey for rare birds among Mayan ruins

Sep 09, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- During a trip to the forests of northern Guatemala earlier this year, Cornell natural sounds expert Greg Budney and his cohorts captured the first recording of a Caribbean dove in Guatemala ...

Recording the soundscapes of spring

Mar 11, 2011

This April, when you step outside and hear the first sounds of spring, you won't be hearing just songbirds and buzzing insects, but aural evidence of an awakening ecosystem.

Bird call database nests online

Dec 07, 2010

A growing online library of bird sounds, photos and information offers a new resource for backyard birders and seasoned ornithologists alike.

Playback: 130-year-old sounds revealed

Dec 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In the early 1880s, three inventors—Alexander Graham Bell, Chichester Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter, collectively making up the Volta Laboratory Associates—brought together their ...

Recommended for you

Offspring benefit from mum sending the right message

6 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers have uncovered a previously unforeseen interaction between the sexes which reveals that offspring survival is affected by chemical signals emitted from the females' eggs.

Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

21 hours ago

Humans aren't alone in their ability to match a voice to a face—animals such as dogs, horses, crows and monkeys are able to recognize familiar individuals this way too, a growing body of research shows.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Adventurous bacteria

To reproduce or to conquer the world? Surprisingly, bacteria also face this problem. Theoretical biophysicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have now shown how these organisms should ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

How kids' brain structures grow as memory develops

Our ability to store memories improves during childhood, associated with structural changes in the hippocampus and its connections with prefrontal and parietal cortices. New research from UC Davis is exploring ...

Gate for bacterial toxins found

Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Aktories and Dr. Panagiotis Papatheodorou from the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Freiburg have discovered the receptor responsible ...