Update: Favorite Apps for Birding

Do you have a smart phone or a tablet?  Are you interested in learning more about birds or trying to identify a bird?  Why carry a heavy paper guidebook into the field or even around the house when you probably have a smart phone or tablet nearby!?!  Like with everything, there is an App for ANYTHING!  And more for birding seem to be added all the time.   Therefore, we decided to republish information on some of favorites of today.  (Note: We use Apple products so our experience is with the iOS versions.)

In this blog, we will focus on four apps, providing a brief summary.   Please use the links to learn more about each and to download to your device(s).   Most have tutorials available either in the app or on YouTube.  After you check the apps out, if you want more help or to share your experience, register for our app workshop to be held Tuesday January 25 at 4:00.

Merlin Bird ID

The first one I recommend to everyone, especially people new to birding, is called Merlin Bird ID.  Just answer five simple questions about a bird or upload a photo of a bird you are trying to identify, and Merlin will come up with a list of possible matches. Merlin offers quick identification help for beginning and intermediate bird watchers to learn about 650 of North America’s most common birds!  Cornell Lab of Ornithology created it in partnership with Birds in the Hand, LLC.  And the best part is it is FREE! (On my phone I have downloaded Bird Pack for Continental US and Canada and it takes about 2.5 GB of space).  Merlin also has the option to use a photo to help you identify a bird or the most recent addition is “Sound ID” which allows you to record a bird and it identifies the bird by comparing to its library of recordings.  It has the option to interface with your eBird account for personalized information.

Audubon logo
Audubon Bird Guide

Another FREE app is the Audubon Bird Guide . The app includes 821 North American species, an advanced gallery view of actual photos for easy comparison and search, field mark call outs and an option to compare birds that are similar.  This app also includes a “Find Birds with eBird” feature powered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a social community of birders who observe, identify, and share their observations and photos in the mobile app and online.  To be honest, this was never our “go to” app but since it has been upgraded to include all these features and more, I highly recommend this to all birders! (And the great news it only takes up 500 MB of space on my phone)

Sibley Birds 2nd Edition

If you own and like to use the Sibley Bird Guide, you can download Sibley eGuide for $19.99.  (OR first try the Lite version for FREE).  This app has all text and drawings for 810 species found in the paper guide along with detailed of winter & summer range maps, measurements of length, wingspan and weight and detailed descriptions of songs and calls.  In addition, the eGuide does things a printed book can’t do:

  • Side-by-side comparison of two species (photos, text, maps & sounds)
  • Play audio recordings of over 2300 different calls and songs
  • Filter species to show only the birds found in a single state or province, or only the most commonly-seen species
  • Filter species by color, shape, size, and habits
  • Personal sightings log

Because the paper guide was our personal favorite, this tends to be the first one we open. (On my phone it takes about 750 MB of space)


Finally, now that you know how to identify a bird, you just might want to start tracking which species you have seen.  Birding can start as a curiosity, easily build into a hobby and turn into an obsession!  The best tool to do this is eBird (yes just a little confusing with the apps above!).  A real-time online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Using eBird either on the computer or with the app on your device, you can:

  • Record the birds you see
  • Keep track of your bird lists
  • Explore dynamic maps and graphs
  • Share your sightings and join the eBird community
  • Contribute to science and conservation

Visit the website or download the app today for FREE to start recording your bird sightings in eBird!

There are many other apps to feed our birding addiction.  Just a few you may want to consider are listed below.  Check out your app store for more details on each.

  • iBird offers several options.  iBird Pro is a field guide available for $14.99 that many people prefer.
  • Smart Bird ID is another free bird ID app that asks questions in a different manner than Merlin
  • BirdNet is another free app from Cornell.  It is a research platform that aims at recognizing birds by sound at scale.
  • BirdsEye is free with options to upgrade for a fee.  BirdsEye gives you the inside scoop about which birds are being seen and where, in real time.
  • Raptor ID is free app developed by HawkWatch International to help in Raptor identification

I hope this article has been helpful and you will try using some or all of the apps I’ve discussed.  Please let me know if you have questions!  Again, if you are a new birder, please take advantage of at least the three FREE  apps below:

  1. Merlin Bird ID– to assist you in identifying the bird species
  2. Audubon Bird Guide– to view information, photos, recordings and whereabouts of bird species
  3. eBird– to record your sightings

Submitted by:  Nancy Brown and Judy Morr

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