Birding is a popular pastime for people of all ages. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 45 million people enjoy watching birds. It’s a hobby you can pick up at any time, it’s easily accessible and it doesn’t cost much, if anything, to participate. There are also many free tools you can use to get started, such as the Merlin Bird ID app.
Developed by researchers at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, Merlin Bird ID was designed to be “a birding coach for bird watchers at every level,” according to the website.
How To Use Merlin Bird ID
After installing the app (you can download either the iOS or the Android version on the Merlin website), you will need to enter an email address and confirm it, although you can skip this step if you prefer. Choose a Bird Pack, which includes photos and sounds for the birds in your region. Merlin Bird ID will suggest a pack, but you can browse all packs and select another one if you prefer. After you install the pack, you can get busy birding.
When you open the app, you will have the following options: Start Bird ID, Get Photo ID, Get Sound ID and Explore Birds.
With Sound ID, Merlin can help you identify the sounds of more than 450 bird species in the United States and Canada. Merlin Bird ID uses thousands of recordings to learn the different calls of birds.
Another way to identify mystery birds is to use the Start Bird ID option. Merlin will ask you several questions, such as the date and location of the sighting, as various species are expected at certain locations at different times of the year.
Merlin will also ask about the bird’s color, size, and behavior and will offer a short list of species based on those descriptions. When you identify a species, click “This is My Bird.” Doing so actually helps improve Merlin’s future performance.
The Photo ID feature lets you snap a picture of a bird or upload one, and retrieve a list of suggested species. You can also use the Explore Birds section to view photos and information about birds likely to be currently in your area.
Other Apps Like Merlin Bird ID
There are a few other free birding apps that offer helpful features for new or experienced birders. For instance, the National Audubon Society offers the Audubon Bird Guide App.
This app is free and offers a complete field guide to over 800 species of birds that are found in North America. It features more than 3,000 photos and more than 8 hours of audio clips of bird songs and calls, as well as maps and information.
Another free bird identification app, Smart Bird ID by Yellow Cardinal, Inc., can identify birds from around the world using your phone’s camera or microphone. This app also lets users find nearby birds, play fun quizzes and more to learn about the birds in their area or elsewhere.
All the apps mentioned are available for iOS on the App Store and for Android devices on Google Play. You can try one (or more) out and start a new, interesting hobby today — or just become savvier about your old one!