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Wildlife sounds

The British Library Sound Archive's wildlife collection is the largest of its kind in Europe and the most comprehensive in the world. Established in 1969 as the British Library of Wildlife Sounds, the collection now holds more than 150,000 scientifically organised and documented recordings of all classes of sound-producing animals from every zoogeographical region. 

Collection overview

The collection includes:

  • Over 150,000 fully documented field recordings donated by private individuals, research zoologists and institutions such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the New Zealand Wildlife Service; most of these unpublished recordings are unavailable elsewhere.
  • Almost every commercial recording, on disc, cassette or CD of wildlife sounds published anywhere in the world - over 2,000 sets of sound recordings - and a small number of videos.
  • A large number of recordings made for radio from the BBC Natural History Sound Archives, and copies of many BBC radio broadcasts on natural history subjects.
  • The sounds of more than 10,000 species of animals from all over the world - birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish, insects - including many rare species and unusual sounds. Most kinds of wildlife in Britain and Europe are represented, often with many examples illustrating the different sounds and their variations. Nearly all the recordings are of wild animals in their natural surroundings but the collection also has sounds of zoo animals, domestic and farm animals.
  • Atmospheric and environmental recordings from various habitats, including temperate woodlands, tropical rainforests and sea cliffs, and other natural sounds such as waterfalls, rivers, rainfall and thunder.
  • The historic recordings of Ludwig Koch, Carl Weismann and other pioneers of wildlife recording, including the earliest published records.
  • Copies of collections used for major zoological research projects, for example the Professor W. H. Thorpe Chaffinch recordings and the Professor J. D. Pye ultrasonic recordings of bats and other creatures.
  • Broadcast natural history programmes such as Animal Language and The Living World, interviews with naturalists and biologists and documentary programmes about natural history and the environment.
  • A large number of printed resources including bioacoustics books, journals, magazines, discographies and catalogues.

Full details of these recordings can be found by searching the Sound Archive catalogue.

Further information

Cheryl Tipp
Curator, Wildlife Sounds
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7403
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441