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Bird call database nests online

Posted on 15. April, 2011.

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Michigan State University’s Avian Vocalizations Center, or AVoCet, offers free downloads of bird sounds from around the world.

It also features sonograms that visually chart the sounds, photos of birds recorded, Google Earth maps of recording locations and links to other online sound collections.

More than 10,200 recordings from over 3,190 species in 45 countries are now available on AVoCet, "and that's growing quickly," says Pamela Rasmussen, an assistant professor of zoology and assistant curator at the MSU Museum.

The author of an exhaustive reference work on the birds of South Asia, Rasmussen has personally recorded on all the continents for this project. Her work in the Philippines alone netted 597 recordings of 120 species, many of which are threatened.

Digital technology has revolutionised birding, Rasmussen explains, allowing enthusiasts and professionals to more easily record, share and play bird calls. Online access to the AVoCet library allows easy access to sounds, photos and other supporting information via computer and Internet-connected mobile devices.

The ability to identify birds vocally is crucial for monitoring bird movements and populations. A comprehensive collection of bird sounds can yield better understanding of habitats, ranges and habits, while allowing more efficient and thorough biodiversity studies. "It's very difficult to see birds in a tropical rainforest, but not difficult to hear and recognize them," Rasmussen says.

"We know that certain species will go extinct in the near future and, sadly, there's not a lot that can realistically be done about it," Rasmussen says. "However, ornithologists and birders do now have the opportunity to document virtually all the species of birds out there in one way or another, and one major goal of AVoCet is to contribute to this effort."

The database can be found here at

In picture: Sonogram corresponding to a recording of a Red-tailed hawk made by Pamela Rasmussen. Photo courtesy of Pamela Rasmussen/AVoCet.

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