The Sounds of Nature


“See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

– Mother Teresa –

While much of nature operates in silence, the wilderness exudes a multitude of sounds from the sweet songs of endless species of birds, to the coyote’s wail, the elk’s bugle, the wind through the canopy of trees, the tumultuous crashing of a waterfall, the crack of thunder as lightning splits the sky . . .   These sounds, and many more, draw us deeply into the spell of nature and away from the noise and hubbub of today’s urban lifestyle.  It’s clear that the sounds of nature help us recover from these stresses and science has proven it,1 yet in many places the sounds of nature are usurped by the sounds of people.

Noise in the National Parks

The National Park Service has been exploring sounds, and noise in particular, around the National Parks in the U.S.  They have found the following to be the most dominant noise sources the parks:

  • Vehicles – “Visitors find that many of the National Parks contain significant levels of sound and air pollution and traffic congestion similar to that found on the city streets they left behind.”
  • Aircraft – “All forms of aviation activities over parks, including commercial passenger flights, park maintenance, scientific research, and fire and emergency operations, have increased in recent years.2
  • Snowmobiles and Off Highway Vehicles – In a 2000 National Parks Conservation Association study, the machines could be heard 90 percent of the time at eight popular sites in Yellowstone National Park.
  • Park Operations – construction, mowing, and aircraft use, as well as park infrastructure, such as heating and ventilation units

The Park Service has done many things to reduce noise at various National Parks.  Use of snowmobiles, for example, have been limited or banned in some parks.  Shuttle buses have been introduced to reduce auto traffic in key parts of some parks.  Air Tour operators are more tightly controlled at parks like Grand Canyon.  This all helps, but when people congregate at our National Parks,  there is always noise. So get away from the crowds and explore the sound of nature.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park



The Sound of Silence

“The faint lisp of snowflakes as they alight is one of the smallest sounds a mortal can hear. The sound of falling sequoia seeds, even when they happen to strike on flat leaves or flakes of bark, is about as faint.”

– John Muir –

snowflakeSilence is not something to expect in nature, so tune your ears and hear that snowflake as it settles in with its partners or seek the sounds of nature that intrigue you the most.

Wonder what a pied butcherbird sounds like at 3:00 am in the Ormiston Gorge of Australia?  How about the raucous soundscape at Lake Achit-nur in Mongolia?  Maybe you’d enjoy the sounds of Antarctic petrels breeding on Dronning Maud Land or the morning chorus on Mount Kupe in Cameroon, Africa.  These sounds and hundreds more are immediately available to you at Nature Sound Map if you aren’t able to travel to these places.

Better yet,  get out and explore the landscape around you with the intent to hear the sounds of nature that fill the air or sneak in amid the noise of your present environment.  If that’s not practical at the moment, play the following recording.  It offers an hour of relaxing sounds from the forest.  Enjoy!




  1. Jesper J Alvarsson,Stefan Wiens, and Mats E Nilsson (2010).  Stress Recovery during Exposure to Nature Sound and Environmental Noise. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2010 Mar; 7(3): 1036–1046.
  2. P.A. Bell, B.L. Mace, and J.A. Benfield  (2009). Aircraft overflights at national parks: Conflict and its potential resolution. Park Science, 26(3), 65-67.

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