Apps for your Device

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. Flo and I realized pretty quickly that using our smart phone was the best way to easily identify birds and even track our sightings.  By now we have at least a dozen different Apps we’ve tried and many of them we still use. (Note: We both use Apple products so my experience is with the iOS versions.)

In this blog, I’m going to focus on five Apps we find most useful in identifying and recording birds.  I’ve provided a summary of each below. Please use the links to learn more about each and to download to your device(s).  If there is interest, I’ll make suggestions of additional Apps in future blogs.  Or you can contact me if you want a more personalized experience in how to use these types of apps: SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com

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 it takes about 600 MB of space)

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 125MB of space on my phone)

Sibley eGuide

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 500 MB of space)

iBird

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.  I recommend more intermediate and advanced birders review the options they offer on the iBird website as there are two many to discuss on this blog.  Personally, we have and use iBird Pro for comparisons as it has both drawings and photos of the 940 species.  It also has more detail on breeding, nesting and other interesting facts about each species. My favorite feature is 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 1.4 GB of space so be sure your devices have the room. And when we travel out of the country, iBird offers bird guide apps for other countries too!

eBird

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!  We hope to break 500 birds this year on our American Bird Association (ABA) Life List, which includes the United States & Canada (but not Hawaii).  We only have 28 to go!  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!

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 (3/16/17)