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 birding is no different. For many people, using a smart phone is the best way to easily identify birds and even track sightings.
On this page, we will focus on five Apps we find most useful in identifying and recording birds. A summary of each is below. Please use the links to learn more about them and download to your device(s).
The first one we 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 3,000 of North, Central, South America and Europe’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!
Another FREE app is the Audubon Bird Guide . The app includes over 800 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. You can quickly search for a bird by even a partial name or bird type. This app will show photos, a map of locations during the year, written description, and audios of the bird’s calls. 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. Since it has been upgraded to include all these features and more, we highly recommend this to all birders!
If you own and like to use the Sibley Bird Guide, you can download Sibley’s Birds 2nd Edition 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 details 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)
- Birds that are “similar to” feature to assist in identifying your subject. Once you select a bird, you can view the other birds which look similar
- 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
The iBird website has a number of bird identification products and does a great job in explaining each product and helping the reader obtain the product they feel will work best for them. We recommend more intermediate and advanced birders review the options they offer on the iBird website as there are too many to discuss on this blog. Personally, we have and use iBird Pro for comparisons as it has both drawings and photos of the 944 species. It also has detail on breeding, nesting and other interesting facts about each species. It also has the “Similar” option. Once you select a bird, you can view the other birds which look similar. You can also set filters to identify your location and other features to assist in identifying the bird. It currently costs $14.99. However, it takes up 2.1 GB of space so be sure your devices have the room.
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
Additionally, there are apps for bird lovers that are just fun.
- Dawn Chorus by Audubon is an app that lets you make a wake up alarm using a bird call chorus that you select.
- Daily Bird is a day by day calendar that highlights a new bird each day with a short descriptor.
Please let SIB know if you have questions! Again, if you are a new birder, please take advantage of at least the three FREE apps below:
- Merlin Bird ID– to assist you in identifying the bird species
- Audubon Bird Guide– to view information, photos, recordings and whereabouts of bird species
- eBird– to record your sightings
Disclaimer: The authors use Apple products so our experience is with the iOS versions. of each of these Apps.