Frequently Asked Questions
How large is the archive?
The Macaulay Library is the world's largest archive of animal sounds. The archive includes more than 175,000 audio recordings covering 75 percent of the world's bird species, with an ever increasing numbers of insect, fish, frog, and mammal recordings as well. The more recently established video archive includes over 50,000 clips, representing over 3,500 species.
Can I visit the Macaulay Library?
The Macaulay Library does not offer regular public tours, however, the visitors' center at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has several interactive exhibits for the public that describe our work and allow you to explore a sound studio just like the ones used by our archivists.
Can I download recordings from your site?
Unfortunately, recordings are not downloadable from the site at this time. However, you are more than welcome to request a copy and license the recordings based on your needs by completing an online order form.
How do I order audio/video?
Please fill out our online order form.
The process is not as scary as the order form and pricing structure may appear. We want to share these recording with you! Just let us know which recording(s) you are interested in by submitting an order, and you’ll be hearing from us shortly.
How can I submit audio/video?
We welcome contributions of audio and video recordings. If you have high-quality audio and video that you are interested in submitting to ML, please contact us and we will evaluate your material for possible archival. Please see our page on How to Contribute The curators are looking forward to hearing from you!
Can I borrow recording equipment from the Macaulay Library?
A limited number of audio and video recording rigs are available for loan to capable recordists and field researchers. We provide instruction on operation and care of the loaner equipment. If you are interested in taking recording gear out on loan, please contact us.
What is the best recording gear to use for audio and video recording?
Many audio recordists on the ML staff prefer solid-state recorders like the Nagra ARES BB+, Nagra LB, Fostex FR2-LE and Marantz PMD-661. Some of our favorite microphones are the Senneheiser ME-66 and ME-67 shotgun microphones and Telinga parabolic microphones.
Video staff in ML use a variety of video cameras: DSLR’s like the Canon 7D, Canon 5D Mk2 and Canon 1D Mk4; HDV cameras like the Canon XL-H1; Solid-state cameras like the Sony EX3; and professional ENG style cameras like the Sony HDW-730 and Sony PMW-350. Audio for video is an extremely important aspect of our work. We employ audio-mixers like the Sound Devices 302, coupled directly to the camera for mixing sound with an external microphone. Sometimes we use autonomous audio recorders (like those listed above) to record separate audio tracks to be combined with the video later.
What format are the audio and video recordings in the Macaulay Library online archive?
Audio files are streaming mp3 format and video files are H.264 files. The archive also stores higher resolution .wav audio files and ProRes422 and ProRes422 (HQ) video files.
Why can’t I play the audio or video?
It’s likely the recording you are trying to play is not available in a digital format yet. These appear with gray play buttons and font in your search results. We are glad to digitize them for you, just let us know which catalog numbers interest you. These recordings are available upon request by filling out an online order form.
Why does every audio recording say “LNS Catalog Number”?
Our name was formerly the “Library of Natural Sounds,” hence the LNS abbreviation. In 2000, Linda and Bill Macaulay graciously donated substantial funds to build our current facilities. Today, the archive bears their name.
I heard a strange noise in my yard at night; it sounds like screaming. What is it?
No, it’s not Big Foot. Depending on where you live there are a number of possibilities for the identity of your mystery creature. A likely candidate, especially if you are in North America near a wooded area, is a juvenile Great Horned Owl. They give this call when they are begging for food from their parents. High whistles and trills might be from an Eastern Screech-Owl. Raucous hoots, sounding like ‘who-cooks-for-you’ are from a Barred Owl. If it sounds like a mammal, take a listen to Red Fox, Common Raccoon, or Coyote.