On April 9, 1935, someone recorded the call of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker — a bird so rare it was just rediscovered in 2004. And so began the The Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America. The Ivory-billed recordings are the earliest in the collection. The complete recordings cost just under $50 and include the work of almost 300 recordists who caught the sounds of “wailing loons, warbling warblers, grunting grouse, and everything in between,” according to the folks at Cornell. There are 4,938 tracks that were chosen from almost 200,000 recordings in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library.
Bird calls are often used by experienced birds as they work in the field. Owls, for instance, can be difficult to see in the wild but they can be identified by call.
One of the interesting things about the collection is that while many of us know common bird calls, the recordings show a much more complicated vocalization system for some species.
This collection includes vocal “repertoires” for 735 species of North American birds. It also includes photographs.
“Listeners may be surprised to learn that even common backyard birds, such as the Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Wren, and Tufted Titmouse, make a variety of sounds they may not have known about,” according to Cornell officials. “The Master Set also includes the voice of the now-extinct Bachman’s Warbler and the bubbling, popping courtship sounds of Gunnsion Sage-Grouse, an imperiled species.”
Too much information? There’s a beginner’s version called The Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Essential Set for North America. This includes the most common bird calls of 727 species that are found in the U.S. and Canada. It costs $12.99.
“These are living, breathing productions,” said Matt Young, the audio engineer on the project. “We’ll always be looking to update the collections as new and better recordings come into the archive.”