What "Evidence of Presence" annotation for audio?

Would an audio file of bird song be annotated as “organism”? Or should I just leave that annotation blank?


I’d just leave it blank. You can already search for observations with sounds.


I would say “organism.” It’s not an audio recording of the bird’s scat, after all.


I think organism is the best and only choice for audio recordings. If you have a picture of the bird with the call or if you just have the call you are documenting the specimen making the call either way so organism makes the most sense to me.


The more I think about it, the more it’s an interesting question. Both require the bird (or frog, etc.) to physically be there when you make the observation. Both are prone to errors (i.e., visually similar species, bird mimics, etc.) The difference is that photos are an observation using light waves, and audio are using sound waves.

As a species, we tend to be oriented towards sight more than sound. It makes sense that our default standard for observations would be sight. But I’m finding that the longer I bird, the more I rely on sound rather than sight.

Not that I tend to overthink things… :-)


Yeah, I’d say “organism” is good, now that I think about it more.


Virtually all audio observations I come across I annotate as:

  • Alive or Dead = Alive
  • Evidence of Presence = Organism

I recently finished “An Immense World” by Ed Yong, and your comments are spot on. :-) And I also rely on bird sound more than sight, though that means we have to be careful of mimics. There are some very talented mockingbirds around here! I’ve learned to listen for repetition.


Virtually all? Now I’m trying to imagine what would make a sound when it is dead. Dry leaves in the wind, I guess…

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Hearing that an animal is there isn’t really all that different from seeing that an animal is there. Either way, you’ve detected it with your senses, and have documented it being there.

I add organism, but take in mind there were cases when people recorded other people playing recordings, so hearing a thing doesn’t mean the organism is really there.


These three sentences deserve a strong thank-you for single-handedly changing my mind on this. I always left these blank because ‘none of the options fit’. But you’re very right with this analysis, and I’ll be annotating as organism from now on. Why should soundwaves be more ‘valid’ as organism than light? Will do my own handful of sound observations shortly.

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