The month of May is our special Bird Migration Month in the River Houses, and if you’re studying birds and natural history in your homeschool (during May or any other month of the year), there’s no better place to explore online — for hours on end — than the Macaulay Library at Cornell University.
The Macaulay Library is a vast international repository, not of books, but of sound recordings and images from nature. And it’s all online and free:
The Macaulay Library is the world’s premier scientific archive of natural history audio, video, and photographs. Although the Macaulay Library’s history is rooted in birds, the collection includes amphibians, fishes, and mammals, and the collection preserves recordings of each species’ behavior and natural history. Our mission is to facilitate the ability of others to collect and preserve such recordings and to actively promote the use of these recordings for diverse purposes spanning scientific research, education, conservation, and the arts. (macaulaylibrary.org)
The Macaulay Library was established almost a hundred years ago as the Library of Natural Sounds by Cornell ornithologist Arthur Allen (1885–1964), a pioneer in recording and analyzing bird songs with the bulky recording equipment of the day. The original natural sounds collection has since expanded to include photographs and video recordings, and while it still focuses largely on birds, it includes materials on other groups as well (as the description above notes).
Pick any bird in North America, or almost any bird species in the rest of the world, and you can pull up photographs and sound recordings from the Macaulay Library. In much of the United States this month, for example, you can hear Mockingbirds like this one singing all day long with barely a pause.
Or maybe you’ve got one of these noisy little fellows in your backyard this month.
You can search the Macaulay Library’s collections by species and by region, and you can filter for image and sound quality, age, sex, associated behaviors, and more.
We use images and sounds from the Macaulay Library to illustrate our Friday Bird Families posts here at the River Houses, and you can always click on the Macaulay Library catalog numbers in the captions of these images to find out more about the species shown and to browse related images, sounds, and videos.
If you have curious naturalists in your homeschool, sit them down in front of a large screen (for much better viewing) and invite them to spend some time discovering the sights and sounds of birds from all over the world.
What educational treasures have you discovered in your library (in person or online) this Leo Term? 😊
❡ Homeschool birds: We think bird study is one of the best subjects you can take up in a homeschool environment. It’s suitable for all ages, it can be solitary or social, it can be as elementary or as advanced as you wish, and birds can be found just about anywhere at any season of the year. Why not track your own homeschool bird observations using the free eBird website sponsored by Cornell University. It’s a great way to learn more about what’s in your local area and about how bird populations change from season to season. 🐦
❡ Dukedoms large enough: Have you found all the local libraries in your area? There may be more than you realize, and there’s no better homeschool field trip than a field trip to a new library! The WorldCat Library Finder will help you find all the library collections near you — public and private, large and small — and the WorldCat catalog itself will help you locate the closest copy of almost any book in the world. 🏛
❡ When in doubt, go to the library: This is one of our regular Homeschool Books & Libraries posts. Add your name to our weekly mailing list and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🗞
❡ Support our work: If you enjoy the educational materials we distribute each week, please support our work and the noble cause of homeschooling by making a small donation as a Friend of the River Houses! Your support keeps us going and growing! 😊