One Million Audio Recordings Powering Science, Conservation, and Birding Tools

By Team Macaulay Library
Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius

  • Ohio, Licking, United States

On April 26, 2021, Christopher McPherson recorded a Blue-headed Vireo, marking the one millionth audio recording in the Macaulay Library. This incredible milestone was made possible by 20,000 recordists and birdwatchers who have shared their audio recordings of birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects with the Macaulay Library over the past 92 years. Thank you, for archiving your recordings in the Macaulay Library. From the discovery of new species using sound recordings, to using vocalizations to help return birds captured for the pet trade back home, to birding tools such as Merlin Bird ID, your contributions really do advance science, conservation, birding tools, and so much more.

We sat down with Mike Webster, director of the Macaulay Library, to reflect on one million audio recordings in the Macaulay Library.

What do one million audio recordings mean to you?

Mike Webster: One million is a big number! It represents a massive effort by our broader community of contributors interested in birds and the sounds that they make.

What will one million audio recordings allow the Macaulay Library to do?

MW: The sky’s the limit. This large number of recordings will allow us to provide accurate and complete audio guides for the birding community, will help researchers use cutting edge “big data” approaches to understand the natural world around us, and will enable powerful machine-learning approaches that can power conservation efforts. With this number of recordings we can enable scientific discovery aimed at questions that weren’t even conceivable a few short years ago.

Did you ever dream that the Macaulay Library would achieve this milestone in 2021?

MW: To be honest, no. When I came here slightly over 10 years ago, we had about 200,000 recordings in the archive and were adding 15-25,000 new recordings per year through a lot of hard labor by archivists in our studios. By opening submissions from the broader birding community through eBird, the growth of the archive exploded. We thought that it would be a good thing, but it has been more than that—it has been amazing to watch the growth.

What’s the next milestone you are looking forward to hitting?

MW: Two million recordings!

Take a tour through the Macaulay Library featuring some of our greatest hits from the first recording to extinct species, from bizarre sounds to musical sounds, and everything in between.