Bird watching has long been a hobby where a certain amount of expertise is required. In order to accurately identify the birds that you’ve spotted you need to have an in-depth knowledge of bird features, migration patterns, regional species, behavior, and many other variables. In order to gain such knowledge it was required to pore over volumes of books on the subject and memorize a wealth of information to make sure your identifications were accurate. A new app developed by the Cornell University Ornithology department has just made the barrier to entry for bird watching a whole lot lower.
The Merlin Bird ID app is an app that allows the user to identify birds by answering a few simple questions (in a simple 5 step process). The app will ask users when and where the bird was spotted, what the bird looked like, and what the birds behavior was at the time of the sighting. To describe what the bird looked like the user will scroll through a few basic body types of birds and then choose the one that most closely resembles the bird in question. The app then gives examples of what the bird was doing that the user can scroll through. Some examples are: eating at a feeder, swimming or wading, on the ground, or in trees or bushes. From there the app will pull from a database of birds in your area matching the body type and behavior specifications, and show you pictures of the most likely birds. Merlin has help from a database that birders use to input which types of birds they have seen and in which areas.
The Merlin app doesn’t stop with simply identifying the bird. It also gives you more information about the bird and its habits. It can even play the sound the bird makes to further ensure that the correct bird has been identified. Merlin has also incorporated a social media aspect in which you can share the birds that you’ve seen with your friends. Unfortunately, at the moment, the database only extends to birds from the United States and Canada.
This is a very unique app that will hopefully help to bring an old hobby to a new audience. With birdwatching being made so much easier it is pretty much a sure thing that a lot more people will try it. This app doesn’t just help bird watchers but also any curious person who simply wants help in identifying the world around them. The app is free and is available through the Apple store. An Android version will be on the market in June of 2014.