IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

‘This is not a gimmick’: Album of endangered birdsong flies up charts in Australia

“The songs of these birds are literally disappearing,” said the album's producer.
Gang-gang cockatoo, Callocephalon fimbriatum
A gang-gang cockatoo is one of 53 birds to feature on “Song of Disappearance.”Auscape / via Getty Images

From treetops to top of the pop charts.

Soaring past big names like Taylor Swift and Michael Buble, an album featuring 53 of Australia’s most endangered birds has flown to No. 3 in the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) album chart since its release on Dec. 3.

“Songs of Disappearance,” featuring, among others, the Indian Ocean Red-tailed Tropicbird and the Eastern Grey Plover, was beaten only by the British superstars Adele and Ed Sheeran.

The 54-track album was created to coincide with the release of a book, “The Action Plan for Australian Birds,” by Charles Darwin University (CDU) and BirdLife Australia. 

“The album is a way to get people to appreciate that this is what we’re likely to lose unless we do something about it,” the book’s editor, Stephen Garnett, a professor at CDU and an environmental scientist, told NBC news Friday.  

“It really touches the hearts of people.” 

The album was produced by CDU doctoral candidate Anthony Albrecht, who said the tracks feature some of the most rarely heard sounds in Australian nature. These were recorded by nature enthusiast David Stewart, who would sometimes spend hours waiting for a secondslong soundbite, he added.

Michael Buble's “Christmas” is at No. 8 in the Australian Recording Industry Association album chart.NBC / via Getty Images file

The team was hoping it might make it into the top 100 albums, so it had “surpassed everyone’s expectation,” he said.  

“It really does demonstrate very strong support for these issues,” he added.  

“It shows that this is not a joke, it’s not a gimmick, it’s very serious. The songs of these birds are literally disappearing,” Albrecht said. 

The title track, arranged by Simone Slattery, an Australian violinist, uses all 53 species, including the songs of the extremely rare Swift Parrot, Orange-Bellied Parrot, and some vulnerable migratory shorebirds such as the Far-Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit.  

“The Night Parrot is a special call because it has been recorded so rarely. Few people would have heard any of these bird calls,” Slattery said in a CDU news release.

Albrecht said he hoped that other artists would follow their lead telling stories to connect people to nature. 

“If people are emotionally connected to the environment and the issues that are impacting it, they will be more likely to take action,” he said. “This project is all about the birds — , they are the artists and the musicians.”

A red-tailed tropicbird like this one was recorded by nature enthusiast David Stewart for the album.Universal Images Group / Getty Images

The number of threatened bird species has risen tofrom 216 fromto 195 in just 10 years, Garnett said, adding that wildfires in both 2019 and 2020 had severely affected species.  

Global warming has also pushed away those that need cooler weather to survive, he said. 

“I find that deeply concerning,” Albrecht said. “It’s absolutely vital that we all collectively take responsibility for conserving the birds.” 

Proceeds from the sales of the album will be donated to BirdLife Australia, one of the country’s biggest bird conservation organizations.