Macaulay Library’s Year in Review

By Kathi Borgmann
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus

  • Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

In 2019, the Macaulay Library marked its 90th year of archiving natural sounds. From the first recording of a wild bird in North America on May 18, 1929 to today, our goal has always been to preserve the sounds of our world for everyone to hear. Thanks to your audio contributions and support, the Macaulay Library is now one of the largest natural sound collections in the world. This achievement would not have been possible without you! Thank you for your support and for sharing your recordings and photos.

In celebration of our 90th anniversary, we challenged you to archive 90 recordings over a 7-month period. The recording community really took the challenge to heart, adding 114,074 recordings to the archive from April through October. We also celebrated May 18th with a special “snapshot of sound” event. More than 1,300 people recorded 813 species within a 1-week period. Take a listen to the snapshot of bird song from around the world. Thank you for helping make 2019 a special year.

The community of recordists and photographers who archive their media in the Macaulay Library continues to grow by leaps and bounds. In 2019, 7,243 recordists contributed more than 180,000 recordings of 6,607 species and 47,008 photographers added more than 5.5 million photos of 9,747 species. The Macaulay Library now holds more than 600,000 recordings of 10,957 species 9,081 of which are recordings of birds and more than 15 million photos of 10,211 bird species. Thank you for helping build the Macaulay Library!

Ten top-rated recordings from 2019

Ten top-rated photos from 2019

Tools built by your recordings and photos

Photos and sounds in the archive power eBird’s Explore Species, Merlin Bird ID, and the soon to be released Birds of the World—a global scientific resource with comprehensive life histories of 10,721 birds. Media in the archive also make the Photo + Sound Quiz possible, allowing you to create customizable quizzes to help you learn the birds anywhere in the world.

Merlin Bird ID now covers all of the regularly occurring species in more than 100 countries and more than 4,300 species worldwide. Merlin includes bird ID tips and AI-powered Photo ID for all regularly occurring species from Canada south to Chile, Western and Northern Europe, and Australia. The app now shows you which birds to expect during each season under Explore Birds, and your eBird Life List is integrated in Merlin, letting you know at a glance whether you’ve already seen a species. And Merlin is not done yet—in 2020 Merlin is looking to expand to Asia and Africa. If you have photos or audio recordings of birds, add them to your eBird checklist and your media might be featured in Merlin.

This year we’ve also been busy working on a brand-new publication featuring deep scholarly species accounts complete with media for every bird in the world. Birds of the World features comprehensive life histories for 10,721 species and is set to take flight in early 2020. Sign up to get updates and learn more at


In collaboration with eBird, we revamped how you add and provide details about your media in your eBird checklist. Manage Media is optimized to make adding, editing, and tagging media easier. New and improved features include:

  • the ability to edit multiple photos/audio at once (shift and command/control while clicking)
  • new tags for behaviors, sound types, and more
  • filtered views for quick access to only the birds on the checklist, only species with audio, or only species with photos
  • an option to add background species in photos and audio recordings
  • the ability to quickly apply your audio recorder gear to all your recordings on a checklist.

These improvements also mean that searching for media just got a whole lot easier. Now you can search the archive for photos or recordings based on behaviors.


In 2019, the Macaulay Library partnered with Instituto Humboldt and the Internet Bird Collection to make even more media available to the public. These valuable collections now have a permanent home in the Macaulay Library. Explore more than 22,000 audio recordings from Colombia in the Instituto Humboldt collection at the Macaulay Library. The Internet Bird Collection, founded in 2002 by Josep del Hoyo, contains more than 460,000 pieces of media, representing more than 96% of the world’s birds. This important collection will be available to explore in the Macaulay Library in early 2020. Learn more about the collection.


Science, conservation, and education

Scientists published 78 papers using media from the Macaulay Library in 2019. Media in the Macaulay Library helped researchers discover a new species of snipe in South America, unravel the mystery of mixed-species flocks, uncover that beak size is shaped by more than what a bird eats, and more (see the complete list of research papers here).

In 2019, Macaulay Library staff supported two student expeditions to collect valuable sound recordings that were not well represented in the archive. Two students gathered media in Western Australia, which supported the release of Merlin Bird ID for Australia. They returned with audio for 13 species previously not in the archive and additional recordings for 32 underrepresented species. Read more about the expedition in Western Australia. Three students also joined the Cornell Museum of Vertebrates and staff from the Macaulay Library to collect specimens and audio recordings in Texas.

For 36 years the Macaulay Library has been holding workshops to help people learn sound recording techniques. Every year, we host an annual Sound Recording Workshop in Ithaca in June. In 2019, twenty workshop participants archived more than 1,000 recordings during the week-long workshop.

"The Western Australia team (left to right): Marie Chappell, Mariel Ortega, and Tayler Brooks "
The Western Australia team (left to right): Marie Chappell, Mariel Ortega, and Tayler Brooks
"Participants from the India Sound Recording Workshop"
Participants from the India Sound Recording Workshop
"Participants from the 2019 Ithaca Sound Recording Workshop"
Participants from the 2019 Ithaca Sound Recording Workshop

Macaulay Library staff also held two sound recording workshops in India in collaboration with the National Centre for Biological Sciences and Wildlife Institute of India. Forty people participated and contributed > 900 recordings during the workshops! Since the workshops, recordists in India have blossomed; the number of recordings contributed from India increased by 531% and the number of recordists increased by 120% compared to the previous year. In 2019, Macaulay staff also teamed up with the Cornell Lab’s Conservation Bioacoustics team to offer a workshop on recording and analysis at IISER Tirupati. Way to go! We can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.

Macaulay Library staff also taught sound-recording techniques and eBird basics to 50 Guatemalan guides and 43 Costa Rican biologists and guides.

Contributor highlights

In 2019, we highlighted the recording accomplishments of Wil Hershberger, who has more than 3,000 recordings in the archive, and Randy Scott Little who has more than 2,000 recordings in the archive. We also acknowledged the amazing recording accomplishments of Linda Macaulay, whose name along with her husband Bill graces the archive. Linda has more than 6,000 recordings from around the world in the archive, and her husband Bill stood by her side for nearly every one of those recordings. Sadly, in 2019 the world lost Bill Macaulay.

"Wil Hershberger"
Wil Hershberger
"Randy Little"
Randy Little
"Linda Macaulay"
Linda Macaulay

In 2019 alone, 118 people archived more than 200 recordings in .wav format (the archival standard). Two hundred recordings in a year requires substantial dedication! We are deeply grateful to everyone! Thank you to:

Audrey Addison Sharad Apte Anne Armstrong
LynnErla Beegle Lance Benner Surendhar Boobalan
Tayler Brooks Phil Brown Kim Cancino
Blaine Carnes Kathy Carroll Maureen Chambrone
Glen Chapman Marie Chappell Orlando Acevedo Charry
Sreekumar Chirukandoth Nelson Conceição Scott Connop
Nelson Contardo Jan Cubilla Ian Davies
A Emmerson Paul Fenwick Stuart Fisher
Ted Floyd N. Fontaine Dale Forbes
Kenny Frisch Doug Gochfeld Arthur Gomes
Phil Green Kshitija Gupta Joe Gyekis
Lisa Cancade Hackett Laurens Halsey Bob Hasenick
valerie heemstra Brian Henderson Julio Hernandez
Wil Hershberger James Holmes Carl Hughes
William Hull Jeff Hullstrung Linda Ireland
Daniel Irons Tom Johnson viral joshi
Roselvy Juárez Peter Kaestner Steve Kinsley
John Kirk Thomas Koffel Burke Korol
Kelly Krechmer Daniel Lane Iván Lau
Gary Leavens Daniel Leger Gabriel Leite
Mark Lewis Wich’yanan (Jay) Limparungpatthanakij Richard Littauer
Dan J.  MacNeal Paul Marvin Amy McAndrews
Jay McGowan Mike McGrenere Mary McKitrick
Matthew D.  Medler Guilherme Melo Luis Mendes
John Meredig Eliot Miller Michael Morris
Esha Munshi Lakshmikant Neve Dean Newhouse
Raphaël Nussbaumer Michael O’Brien Darrell Peterson
Nathan Pieplow Pablo Alejandro Pla Julia Plummer
Arun Prabhu S. Queen KARTHIKEYAN R
Rajesh Radhakrishnan Marc Regnier Kriss Replogle
Bruce Rideout JoAnn Potter Riggle Matthew Schenck
Bill Schmoker Glenn Seeholzer Paul Sellin
Jerred Seveyka Puja Sharma Brian Shulist
David Simpson Ramit Singal Dave Slager
Norman Soskel Andrew Spencer Paul Suchanek
Colin Sumrall Will Sweet Santiago Tabares
Nick Tepper Larry Therrien Bente Torvund
Teresa & Miles Tuffli Brad Walker Martin Wall
Elissa Weidaw Bobby Wilcox Sara Young

We would love to highlight all of the amazing recordists out there, so please send us your story if you would like to be featured (send an email to

The Macaulay Library is now the largest community of sound recordists. If you haven’t started recording but are interested in learning, visit our how-to guide to get started. We think you’ll love it!

The Macaulay Library is looking forward to 2020 and to what new tools your photos and recordings can power and what they can help us learn about birds, insects, and amphibians. Stay connected by following us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and tell us what you are looking forward to in 2020. What species are you hoping to record or photograph in 2020?