Looks like I missed this news when it came out at the end of 2012, but I just found out about it via the Xeno-Canto forum. The Florida Museum of Natural History has put its huge collection of bird sound recordings online in digital format for the first time. According to the museum website, the collection contains over 20,000 recordings of about 3,000 bird species, making it the Western Hemisphere’s second-largest collection in terms of species and third-largest in number of recordings. It’s the biggest single addition to the internet’s bird sound collection in many years.
I spent a little time cruising around the website, and I have some suggestions for better browsing:
- Get your scientific names ready! The database doesn’t contain English names at the moment. And even the scientific names are sometimes way out of date — for example, all the California and Canyon Towhee recordings are lumped together under the old name Pipilo fuscus. (California Towhee became Pipilo crissalis in 1989, and Melozone crissalis in 2010, so the name P. fuscus is oooooold).
- When you want to look through some results, you might want to click on “Table Layout” instead of “Vertical Layout.” The Vertical Layout puts the genus in bold letters at the top of each search result, but buries the species name way down in a list of information, third from the bottom. It’s annoying. Table Layout makes it much easier to browse search results that contain multiple species. Plus it shows you more information about each recording, if you use the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the screen.
Overall, it’s great to see this collection online, and I’ll be visiting it regularly from now on.
Bird sounds vary on many levels. When talking about variation, it would be nice to be able to distinguish exactly which kind of variation we mean. [Read more]
In 1995, in the 40th Supplement to their checklist, the American Ornithologists’ Union recognized Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) as a full species, splitting it from the Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus) on the basis of “differences in morphology, vocalizations, habitat preferences, and migration patterns.” In this post, I reassess the evidence for a consistent difference in flight calls between Bicknell’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes. [Read more]
Tone quality is the distinctive voice of a sound — the thing that allows you to tell the difference between a violin and a trumpet when they’re both playing the same note. It comes in very handy when identifying birds by sound, but people have tended to differ in their notions of how to describe it. Today we’ll introduce basic tone quality vocabulary. [Read more]
Now that we’ve looked at the five basic pitch patterns and the four basic song patterns, let’s explore a couple of ways to extend and combine the vocabulary we’ve learned. [Read more]
In the last post, I covered the five basic pitch patterns, introducing some vocabulary to help distinguish between different types of individual notes. Today I’m going to introduce some vocabulary to help distinguish between different types of groups of notes — that is, different types of songs. [Read more]
The “How to Read Spectrograms” section of this blog is in desperate need of an upgrade, so today I’m starting a series of posts to help people describe and visualize sounds as simply and clearly as possible. Our first topic: pitch patterns. [Read more]
Most people don’t listen to gulls much. But as I’ve paid more attention to them over the past year, I’ve realized that many species can indeed be identified by sound alone, and this fact has greatly improved my birding skills. [Read more]
Some have argued that Common and Hoary Redpolls differ in vocalizations. I set out to verify this claim. [Read more]
I am confident that this book will enhance the way people look at warblers. I am less confident, but ardently hopeful, that it will enhance the way they listen to warblers as well. [Read more]