Computer scientists decode birdsongs automatically

Jul 17, 2014

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have found a successful way of identifying bird sounds from large audio collections, which could be useful for expert and amateur bird-watchers alike.

The analysis used recordings of individual birds and of dawn choruses to identify characteristics of . It took advantage of large datasets of sound recordings provided by the British Library Sound Archive, and online sources such as the Dutch archive called Xeno Canto.

Publishing in the journal PeerJ, the authors describe an approach that combines feature-learning – an automatic analysis technique - and a classification algorithm, to create a system that can distinguish between which birds are present in a large dataset.

"Automatic classification of bird sounds is useful when trying to understand how many and what type of birds you might have in one location," commented lead author Dr Dan Stowell from QMUL's School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science and Centre for Digital Music.

Dr Stowell was recently awarded a prestigious five-year fellowship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop computerised processes to detect multiple bird sounds in large sets of audio recordings.

"Birdsong has a lot in common with human language, even though it evolved separately. For example, many songbirds go through similar stages of vocal learning as we do, as they grow up, which makes them interesting to study. From them we can understand more about how evolved and social organisation in animal groups," said Dr Stowell.

He added: "The attraction of fully automatic analysis is that we can create a really large evidence base to address these big questions."

The classification system created by the authors performed well in a public contest using a set of thousands of recordings with over 500 bird species from Brazil. The system was regarded as the best-performing audio only classifier, and placed second overall out of entries from 10 research groups in the competition.

The researchers hope to drill down into more detail for their next project.

Dr Stowell says, "I'm working on techniques that can transcribe all the bird sounds in an audio scene: not just who is talking, but when, in response to whom, and what relationships are reflected in the sound, for example who is dominating the conversation."

Explore further: Sexual selection isn't the last word on bird plumage, study shows

More information: Automatic large-scale classification of bird sounds is strongly improved by unsupervised feature learning, PeerJ, 2014. peerj.com/articles/488/

Related Stories

What's that bird? Check your smart phone

Jan 15, 2014

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has released a free iPhone app to help people identify 285 birds in North America. Created with support from the National Science Foundation, the app asks just five questions, then displays ...

Recommended for you

Cats relax to the sound of music

2 hours ago

According to research published today in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery by veterinary clinicians at the University of Lisbon and a clinic in the nearby town of Barreiro in Portugal, music is likew ...

Fruit flies crucial to basic research

3 hours ago

The world around us is full of amazing creatures. My favorite is an animal the size of a pinhead, that can fly and land on the ceiling, that stages an elaborate (if not beautiful) courtship ritual, that can ...

Crete's mystery croc killed by cold snap

3 hours ago

A man-eating crocodile that became an attraction on the Greek island of Crete last year after its mysterious appearance in a lake has died, probably of cold, an official said Monday.

Hunting for living fossils in Indonesian waters

4 hours ago

The Coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis) was thought to be extinct for more than 60 million years and took the science world by storm in 1938 when it was re-discovered living in South Africa. This fish has ...

An elephant never forgets the way to the watering hole

6 hours ago

A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B tracked the movement of elephants across the African savannah. The elephants chose the shortest distances towards watering holes, pin-pointing the lo ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.