The Hills Are Alive With 1,000 Nature Calls

The J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah has a very fun digital archive — 1,000 calls of birds, coyotes, frogs, and more on a new site called the Western Soundscape Archive, available at As you might expect from the title it’s devoted exclusively to the calls of fauna in the Western US (described as “the eleven contiguous western United States and parts of Alaska.”)

You can browse through common and Latin names in various categories (Amphibians, Birds, Reptiles, Mammals, etc — there’s an Ambient category here as well that has a huge number of recordings. You can browse all the sounds — over 1100 of them — at one URL. And of course you can search by keyword. I did a search for marsh and got four results — two frogs, one bird, and an ambient recording (THAT WAS JUST — but more about that later.)

Search results include a thumbnail of the fauna represented (except for the ambient recordings, of course), title of the recording, type of subject (amphibian, etc.) and common name. Click on the title and you’ll get a larger picture of the fauna along with details about where the recording was made and a thing called a “Natureserve Report”. It is supposed to be divided into categories but I couldn’t get the categories to expand and give me details on conservation status, distribution, and ecology and life history. (There is a direct URL for that report which worked fine.)

The recording itself is at the top of the page in what looks like a little Flash player. I had no issues playing it on my Linux machine (always nice.) The frogs were 24 seconds, the Marsh Wren was 19 seconds (and made my cat very interested) but the ambient recording of Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge was over 28 minutes. I did a little more looking around and found an ocean recording that’s over 13 minutes long. (It’s a beach in Oregon and you can hear waves and what sounds like a dog running by.) I see from the details that some sound files are under a Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works CC license and the Flash player includes a download link. (Some files are copyright individuals and are not downloadable.) So I won’t feel bad about downloading available recordings and using them for some background noise when I’m feeling a little stressed.

In addition to this collection of nature sounds, there’s also a collection of arctic sounds, a list of species and maps of their habitations, and an overview of an upcoming sound spectrogram archive. (“Western Soundscape Archive will make available more than 5000 spectral images from over 100,000 hours of park service sound level monitoring.”) A terrific collection; the ambient sounds were amazing. If you’re interested in nature at all this site is highly recommended.

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