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Cornell Lab of Ornithology

All About Birds

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A Pop-up Bird Book?

article spread
by Staff Writers

The popular Birdsongs books from Chronicle Books and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology make it possible to read about birds and hear their sounds at the push of a button. What’s next? The newest book in the series, Birdscapes, opens up into elaborate pop-up landscapes with birds and stereo sound. Written by Miyoko Chu, director of Communications at the Lab, the book features the vibrant sounds of landscapes from Arctic tundra to Sonoran desert.

All the sounds come from the Macaulay Library’s archive, including new recordings from the Lab’s “Big Year” expeditions. Turn the page to the seabird colony, and a jagged, rocky island sticks up from the sea, accompanied by the roar of seabirds.

“We included the sounds of nocturnal Fork-tailed and Leach’s storm-petrels recorded on Saint Lazaria Island near Sitka, Alaska, just last year,” said Chu. “Our recordists lay in sleeping bags with microphones as the air and ground pulsated with the sounds of storm-petrels flying overhead and courting in the burrows below.”

Open the page to the southern swamp, and you see birds wading beneath gigantic moss-draped trees. “We also chose some recent recordings for the swamp scene,” Chu said. “No sleeping bags this time: the recordists waded through alligator-infested water to record the calls of White Ibises, and they came out of the swamp bloodied after fighting their way through sawgrass to record the King Rail.”

The Lab’s audio production engineer, Gerrit Vyn, worked with book producers becker&mayer! to weave the recordings into a seamless sequence evoking the sounds of each scene. Looking and listening your way through the book highlights how the sounds of birds are an unforgettable and defining feature of any landscape.

Interview With the Author

Interview With the Author (3:37)

Birdscapes author and Lab communications director Miyoko Chu discusses her new book, and recounts what it took to get some of the recordings

Video produced by Pat Leonard/CLO