The month of favorites may be over, but for me, the chirp of a wild bird can comfort at any time. When I think of an early morning robin, a lone wintery chickadee, or a nest of spring-time sparrows hidden under the roof, specific emotions evoke from the sonic data in their calls. They express the time, the season and weather, and the topography they declare home. Their calls, as well as their silence, create a thick atmosphere that can enhance just about any scene, from the mockingbirds of the South Atlantic in the US version of House of Cards to the backyard birds surrounding the peaceful but seclusive Mulwray mansion in Chinatown. In interactive scenes, they reflect the actions and the changing landscape around the avatar, signaling moods from solitude to panic, though they are rarely the cause of threat (unless you’re in Bodega Bay). In our existential life, they remind us the world continues on with or without our presence.
So, who is the owner of your favorite call? If you can recognize him or her by sound but not by name, check out The Macaulay Library from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which has uploaded nearly 137,000 of their 175,000 audio samples online, or the Xeno-Canto noncommercial database, which allows you to search by call length, number of notes, or even changes in pitch or rate.
If your sound effects library is lacking the charm of even the intercontinental sparrow, there are several commercial libraries to meet your twittering needs. The massive Animal Planet Sounds, Vol 1 from Sound Ideas contains hundreds of bird calls and ambiences, though the bird sounds consist of less than half the library. If you are looking for a more specific library, consider Quiet Planet’s Prairies, Boom Library’s Birds of Prey and Deciduous Forests, or The Recordist’s Bats, Birds and Bugs. Each library contains over 100 sound effects, metadata, multiple versions of each sound, and a recording quality of at least 48kHz/24-bit.