The joys of recording bird sounds

By Kathi Borgmann
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus

  • Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

We recently asked our followers why they record bird sounds. We received many heartfelt responses from recordists around the world. We could not have said it better ourselves! Here are Martina Nordstrand, Guillermo Funes, Wesley Rajaleelan, Erik Dale Ostrander, Ben Mirin, Mario Reyes,  Samim Akhter, Julia Plummer, Mike Hearell, and Laura Giannone in their own words on why they record bird sounds.

“I think it captures an area in a really comprehensive way that photos can’t. Sure, you may be recording the target bird, but chances are you’re also recording other birds, insects, frogs, etc. in the background. I associate habitats with these sorts of soundscapes and it’s just another way to share a slice of the world.” – Martina Nordstrand

White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus

  • North Carolina, Union, United States

“It’s my dose of meditation, to be out there, listening to the whispers of the wings.” – Wesley Rajaleelan

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca

  • Ontario, Toronto, Canada

“I started recording birds as a way to learn how to identify them. But later, I discovered the wonderful world of animal sounds, and that recordings of the natural world are like a window that allows you to travel in time and space. There is nothing more thrilling than hear a bird singing his heart out through your headphones. Is a marvelous and vivid way to capture the essence of an animal or a place without disturbing it; is like capturing a moment and store it in your computer.” – Guillermo Funes

Rufous-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis erythrothorax

  • Ahuachap├ín, El Salvador

“I started recording bird sounds to use as transitions and fillers in a podcast that I co-host. After spending over a year solidly focused on listening and recording bird sounds I have really grown in my ability to identify and appreciate birds by ear. I also have a real sense of accomplishment when I am able to get a bird song or call on tape. I feel there is a bigger challenge to recording and catching the bird without a distracting background than there is to taking a photo of the same bird without a distracting background.” – Erik Dale Ostrander

Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri

  • Oregon, Lincoln, United States

“It reminds me of the beauty I can appreciate every day, the stories I can capture by studying sound deeply, and the connection I can experience with an individual bird. Hearing a beautiful bird song overrides anything else I’m doing. It stops me dead.” – Ben Mirin

Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

  • California, Plumas, United States

“It makes me be a better birder with every sound I learn 💪 and makes me feel part of the nature when I can identify them. I rather be alone when I am recording, is the best experience ever.” – Mario Reyes

Banded Wren Thryophilus pleurostictus

  • La Paz, Honduras

“The song of birds is simply one of the most beautiful sounds in earth. I record birdsong because it helps me to analyze the pattern of the call of the species. One more important thing it increase my ability to recognize a bird in the wild while I am dealing with the whole process of recording and analyzing the song or call of different species birds. Additionally uploading them into web-based resources like to Macaulay Library or Xeno Cento is a little effort towards documentation of natural world which gives me joy.” – Samim Akhter

Common Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

  • West Bengal, Hooghly, India

“One of the things that excites me about sound recording is the challenge of recording something new, either for myself or for eBird. I noticed that there was *one* recording for Great Egret in the Macaulay library in Pennsylvania. So I set out to get more and managed to add five more recordings (bought a better recorder and microphone in the process though the recordings are still poor) bringing us up to six recordings in PA now.” – Julia Plummer

Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens

  • Pennsylvania, Centre, United States

“Most species of birds have been photographed a bajillion times and from every angle. Audio however, hasn’t had as much attention paid to it. The challenge of capturing vocalizations of species I haven’t yet or seldom heard/recorded vocalizations is what motivates me.” – Mike Hearell

Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria

  • Utah, Weber, United States

“It’s a fun window into the daily lives of birds and their interaction with everything else. Birds usually make me laugh when I pay attention to them. I use field recordings in music projects and end up composing in a way that reflects what I heard while out recording.” – Laura Giannone, Ebb Tide Sound.

 

Why do you record bird sounds? Share your thoughts with us by sending an email (MacaulayLibrary AT Cornell.edu) or message us on social media.

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