The most influential artists behind music as we know it might not be Beethoven or the Beatles -- but rather, birds. For ages those feathered crooners have been belting out their unique songs and calls in genres reminiscent of classical and baroque to noise rock and electro-pop, and everything in between. In fact, many musicologists believe that bird sounds inspired our very conception of music itself -- so it was only a matter of time before their work found its way on the Internet to be downloaded for free, too. Forgot to copyright that tune, did we Mr. Nightingale?The Web site xeno-canto is a "community database of shared bird sounds from the whole world" -- boasting around 67,000 calls and songs from a whopping 7147 birds, which amounts to an impressive 67.4 percent of all species on the planet.
The bird sound database is a member-driven collection, recorded by professionals primarily to make a unified list of species from around the globe. Users help each other classify and identify recorded sounds and songs in hopes of compiling a comprehensive collection of nature's most ardent vocalists. Still, some sounds have eluded attribution; the site hosts a list of 420+ bird calls of 'mysterious' origin.
While the site's database may be a wonderful resource for biologists and ornithologist, it's also a great way for novice birders to bring a little warmth to a chilly winter day when all those feathered, fair-weather troubadours are off enjoying their holidays in the southern climes.
Perusing the archive, it's hard not to be impressed by the myriad of sounds, whether beautiful or grating, that birds can produce. And, while they might not be eligible to win any Grammys, at least you can download them for free off the Internet without having to worry about anti-piracy laws.