Technological advances have changed the hobby of birdwatching several times over.
Field guides and binoculars replaced Opera glasses and notepads in the 20th century. And today savvy bird watchers are equipped with 50-megapixel cameras with vibration reduction compact super telephoto zoom lenses and ultra-light-weight binoculars with the old standby – paper guides still in hand.
The methodology for identifying birds has not changed, just the way we capture images for scientific study and personal enjoyment.
Since my smartphone goes wherever I go, in addition to my Sibley Field Guide, I also rely on smartphone technology to identify bird species
That’s where the Merlin Bird ID smartphone app comes in. It’s a free app by our friends at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for iOS and Android.
Merlin Bird App IDs Birds in a Snap
Merlin Bird ID offers active identification. Unlike smartphone version of field guides, this app takes a more active role in the process, analyzing your observations, photos, and audio recordings to help you arrive at an acute ID.
And it’s a snap to use and great for beginning and intermediate birders.
Just open the app and you are asked if you want to START BIRD ID or PHOTO ID.
If you choose START BIRD ID to start the Bird ID Wizard, then it asks you five questions to help identify over 1500+ North American and European birds.
-Where were you?
-When did you see it?
-About how big was it (relative to other birds)?
-What were the main colors?
-And what was it doing?
The app provides photos and descriptions of matching bird species based on this information and is surprisingly accurate.
If you choose PHOTO ID, my preferred way to quickly identify birds, it asks if you want to TAKE PHOTO or CHOOSE PHOTO from the one you have already taken.
If you CHOOSE PHOTO, then you are prompted to find the photo in your smartphone photo library, and you can zoom the picture in the finder until the bird fills the box.
The metadata on your photo automatically provides the location latitude and longitude and date from when the photo was taken.
Then hit IDENTIFY, and it pulls up the choices.
Merlin Bird ID draws upon more than 415 million observations from the eBird citizen-science project. It customizes your list to the species you are most likely to have seen at your location and time of year.
We’ve tested the app using blurry silhouettes with very little detail, and it accurately identifies the bird.
Merlin Bird ID is a fantastic app and an excellent tool for quick bird identification.
Next time to you bird watching, don’t leave home without it.
Download the free Merlin Bird ID here.