World's largest natural sound archive goes online

A digital archive of thousands of natural and animal sounds has been put online by Cornell University's Macaulay Library. The archive contains some of the oldest recordings as well as recordings of rare species and is available freely on the library’s website.

The collection, said to be the world’s largest natural sound archive, took researchers over 12 years to put together, the University announced in a blog post. Sounds in the collection that date back to 1929 have been digitised.

This is one of the greatest research and conservation resources at the Cornell Lab,” said Audio Curator of the Library, Greg Budney. “And through its digitisation we’ve swung the doors open on it in a way that wasn’t possible 10 or 20 years ago.”

Sounds of Nature (Image Courtesy: Cornell University)

Sounds of Nature (Image Courtesy: Cornell University)


The collection currently contains nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings, which equals to more than 10 terabytes of data. The run-time of the entire collection is about a whopping 7,513 hours with around 9,000 different species being represented. The library says that while the emphasis of the collection has been on birds, the collection also includes sounds of whales, elephants, frogs, primates and more.

Some of the highlights of the collection include the earliest recording that the founder of Cornell Lab, Arthur Allen, took of a 'song sparrow' in 1929, a clip recording the sounds of an 'ostrich chick' while still inside the egg and the sound of a 'curl-crested manucode' that sounds like a UFO.

"Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world. Now, it's also the most accessible," Library Director Mike Webster wrote in the blog post. "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."

These recordings can prove useful to researchers and birders who can use it to fine tune their sound identification skills. These recordings are also used in museum exhibits and provide for sound effects in movies and commercial products like smartphone apps.

"Now that we've digitised the previously archived analogue recordings, 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.

You can check out the entire collection by logging into the Macaulay Library website.

Published Date: Jan 21, 2013 12:54 pm | Updated Date: Jan 21, 2013 12:54 pm