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Website of the Week — Macaulay Library

Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.

This is our last Website of the Week for 2006, and I have to report that our selection this week has gone to the birds.

SOUND: Mottled Wood Owl (Strix ocellata, cat. no. 646)

ANDERSON: "Well, the Macaulay Library is a collection of video and audio sounds from animals — mostly birds — from around the world."

Mike Anderson is an assistant curator at the Macaulay Library at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, online at It used to be called the Library of Natural Sounds, which is perhaps a better description of this amazing collection of audio and video recordings, which includes some 7,000 different kinds of birds, representing more than two-thirds of all known species.

There are actually some 170,000 audio and another 50,000 video recordings, so obviously, in many cases there are multiple recordings of the same species, which is a real help for researchers.

ANDERSON: "Birds sound different across their range. There are some birds that live from the northern point in Alaska all the way down to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, like the house wren and some others. And in some parts of their range they may sound different than others. So it's worthwhile in having a larger sample size to document any amount of variation across the species distribution."

Along with the actual recordings, the library documents where the recording was made and when, plus what the bird was doing at the time, the weather, and so on.

For decades the library housed its collection on disks and later on tape. Now that they are making digital transfers, they can make the collection available on their website. Only about one-third of the collection is now online in digital format, but more is becoming available all the time.

Anderson says the Macaulay Library website attracts a wide range of users.

ANDERSON: "We have researchers who appreciate the large sample size of any one particular species that they may be working on. We have educators coming in to use our website, looking to play a sound of a cardinal for their class. Or we have conservationists coming to determine what all of the birds in a particular forest in Africa sound like so that they can then do monitoring and such."

Mike Anderson of the Macaulay Library at Cornell University. You can listen and view their recordings online at, or get the link from our site,