Free Materials For Teachers
Image©2019 ABS Xent-canto logo below a fanciful bird flying in front of an Earth globe.
A World Of Bird Songs.

I’ve just added a sidebar link to a site with bird songs and calls from all over the world. Xeno-canto has a remarkable collection, including 92% of all bird species! That’s over 10,000 species represented by more than 450,00 individual recordings, as of 2019, with new sounds added constantly. Xeno-canto, started in 2005, is run by the Xeno-canto Foundation from the Netherlands. Click the bird photos in this post to hear some of these sounds.

An Amazing Collection

There are songs and various calls from common birds, like the American Robin, night birds like the Great Horned Owl, and from less familiar birds such as the strange-looking African Hamerkop. Adding one of these sounds to a multimedia story helps establish time of day and location.

Image©2019 ABS American Robin perched on a twig with dried berries; photo from slightly below showing the bird's left side
American Robin

Just for fun, I clicked the Country tab to arrange the collection alphabetically by country, and then looked to see what birds you might hear in a country I knew very little about, Azerbaijan. One of many recordings were calls and hammering by the European Green Woodpecker.

You can find calls from endangered birds such as the red-tailed tropicbird you hear in one of the Madagascar Adventures, Island Encounter. They even had recordings from a chick in the nest!

Image©2019 ABS Side view of a European Green Woodpecker clinging to a tree trunk.
European Green Woodpecker

In Treasure Hunt, at one point the explorer is challenged to pick out a toucan from a whole tree full of noisy birds. I downloaded a toucan call, and combined it in Audacity© (a shareware sound editor) with a dawn chorus recording from FreeSound to make a perfect background sound for my story.

And then there is the joy of listening to your favorite birdcalls, such as the sound of the Canyon Wren. I’ve always thought it sounds like a musical waterfall! Or the fun of hearing really strange birdcalls, like the booming sounds of rheas and emus. Maybe that’s what dinosaurs sounded like!

Licensing Of Sounds From Xeno-canto

I’ve used this site for a long time, but now it’s much more useful for educational projects because there is Creative Commons licensing and usage information for each recording. Licenses used are Creative Commons By-Share Alike, By-Non-Commercial-Share Alike, and By-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives.

Image©2019 ABS Face of a Great Horned Owl (Head turned toward the camera) with blurred blue spruce foliage behind it.
Great Horned Owl

Recordings in two of these license categories (BY-NC-SA and BY-SA) can be modified. That means that you can shorten them or combine them with other sounds to use in projects. The SA in both these licenses means that if you share the sound, it must have the same license. For example, you should not combine a sound licensed BY-NC-SA with another sound, or add it to a sound collection, and then offer the result commercially.

The NC in the BY-NC-SA license means non-commercial use only. That means you would be allowed to use the BY-SA sounds even for a recorded class project that you are using to raise funds, but not those licensed BY-NC-SA.

Image©2019 ABS Side view of the head of a hamerkop, a brown bird with a crest that gives the head a profile like a claw hammer.

The most restrictive category, BY-NC-ND, is non-commercial, and also includes the ND abbreviation. That means you can’t change the sound at all, including shortening the recording or combining it with other sounds. That limits the usefulness of these sounds for creative projects, but they still can be used in lessons. You even can share them or offer projects containing them for download, so long as attribution is included.

All three categories include the BY designation, requiring you to give attribution. Include the name of the original recording, even if you have modified it, the recordist’s name, the date, and mention that the sound was downloaded from Xeno-canto also appreciates links back to their site (but not hot-linked to a particular sound recording).

Image©2019 ABS Side view of a Canyon Wren, small brown bird with a long, slightly upcurved beak.
Canyon Wren

Be Specific When You Search

With this enormous collection of sounds, a well-designed Search function is essential. You can search by common name, but a scientific name search is MUCH better, because often many birds share the same common name. Example: I searched for “loon” but got hundreds of recordings, many of a type of loon heard in Finland, which was not the loon I was seeking.

Image©2019 ABS Side view of the head and long neck of an emu with a large, bright rusty orange eye.

Then I remembered that the loon I knew is called “common loon” in the field guide, so a search for that was successful. If I had looked up the scientific name (Gavia immer) in the field guide first, I’d have saved myself a lot of time.

Also notice the two links just to the right of the search box. The first leads to a form for Advanced Search, enabling you to limit the search by various terms such as country or file type. That’s particularly helpful if all you know is a common name!

Image©2019 ABS Part of Xent-canto interface; Search and links for Advanced Search and Tips
Advanced Search and Tips

The second link leads to a Tips page on how best to use the Search function of Xeno-canto. For example, it’s not case-sensitive, so ROBIN and robin will be treated as the same search word. Skim through the Tips page first!

A Bit Of Technical Help

The drop-down menu that opens if you hover (instead of clicking) on Tips refers to abbreviations you can use as prefix tags on the Advanced Search page, in the upper slot where you type what you’re looking for. It’s very picky! For example, putting nr: followed by a catalog number will find the item in Advanced Search, but not in the regular search box. And no spaces allowed!

Image©2019 ABS Side view of the head a Common Loon, black with a striped collar and a dark red eye.
Common Loon

The result of a search is usually a long list of sound entries, with tabs across the top for the name, date, recordist, location, etc. You can click each tab to arrange all the entries by that characteristic, first top to bottom and the second click for the reverse. The very first option for each entry is a small black forward arrow that you can click to hear the sound.

Image©2019 ABS Part of Xent-canto interface; sound name and black triangle to play the sound
Play Sound

The name (both common and scientific names) comes next, and you can click it to open a page with a range map displayed above all the entries for that bird; including recordings of calls, songs, flight calls, chicks, alarm cries, etc. Click the name of one of those recordings to go to a page with a map showing exactly where that specific recording was made.

Image©2019 ABS Part of Xent-canto interface; menu that drops when you right-click the player
Download Sound Via Rt-Click Player

Other information for each recording includes the name of the recordist, the location, date, remarks, and more, followed by what we’re most interested in: the license and the download icon.

Before downloading a sound, check the license to be sure it’s okay for your intended use. Look to the far right of each entry, just past the catalog number (begins with XC followed by six or more digits), for a very small CCCCthat you can click to determine which license applies to that sound. Often there are several recordings for the same bird, so if the license for one sound isn’t suitable, try another.

Image©2019 ABS Part of Xent-canto interface; menu that drops when you right-click the download icon
Download Sound Via Rt-Click Icon

Although the site is very organized, downloading a sound can be a bit confusing. Clicking the download iconDownload icondoesn’t immediately give you a file to download. Instead, it opens a page with an audio player on a black background. You can listen to the sound there, if you haven’t already done so.

To actually download the sound, rt-click on the player and choose Save Audio As… from the drop-down menu. To skip seeing the player and save the sound directly, right-click the download icon (instead of the normal left-click), and choose “Save Link As…” from the menu that opens.

Upload A Mystery Recording

You also can upload a Mystery Recording, and hope that someone recognizes the bird you heard. With many contributors worldwide, there’s a very good chance it will be identified.

On this page, I’m placing the link to Xeno-canto, and also to a site where you can download Audacity to edit the sounds. This is a super resource for classrooms, but beware—it’s easy to get lost in all the fascinating snd often lovely sounds and lose an entire afternoon!

Applications needed: Modern web browser, sound editor such as Audacity.
Subject area: Resources-sounds.
Level: Author.

Online Link-Resources

Xeno-canto link Click Here. Collection of recorded bird songs and calls from all over the world.

Audacity link Click Here. Download page for both Mac and Win versions of Audacity, a free sound editor.

Attributions link Click Here. Attributions for the edited bird photos and bird calls used in this post, and tips on locating the original photos and recordings. PDF version available. Bonus: Full-sized (4000-3000) Great Horned Owl photo to download!

October 21st, 2019 at 8:10 pm


To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image

Translate »