Birding apps for amateur and expert birdwatchers alike

It’s the time of year when people end up with gift certificates to app stores, and the app world can seem overwhelming. But amid all the games available, there are quite a few nature-related apps available. Here are some of my favorites for both the iPhone and Android phones.

Merlin

This cool little app is free and helps you identify birds. It asks you a series of questions about the size, colors, and what you saw the bird doing and suggests a list of possibilities. It’s surprisingly accurate. I use it quite a bit at my park visitor center when someone comes in to describe a bird that doesn’t quite make sense. This app gives questions to help something that starts off as a “blue cardinal” and narrows it down to tufted titmouse.

HotSpots

I love this app because it tells you where the birding hot spots are anywhere in the world and can even tell you what other people have reported in them via the eBird database from the Cornell Lab or Ornithology. Not only that but it will sync with your navigational app to give you guided driving directions, sunrise and sunset times, as well as the weather report. If you are curious about where to find a bird around your home or other places you travel, this is the perfect app.

BirdsEye

This bird finding app is free but some of the features require a small paid subscription. But it is so worth it! Upon opening, the app will tell you what’s been reported near you. You can tailor it to birds within a certain time period and distance. If you synch it with the eBird app it will even give you alerts to nearby birds that you probably haven’t seen yet.

eBird

If you like to keep track of birds you see this a terrific app. It will pinpoint your location and it gives you the option of using a nearby established hotspot or creating your own and then you can enter in what you see and it uploads to eBird. This is a fun way not only to keep track of your bird sightings but to also contribute to citizen science projects. It requires having an eBird account to use, but that’s free to set up.

Larkwire

In my opinion, no perfect app exists that will listen to the birds and identify the call for you. It’s currently not possible since birds have accents, and there usually are several species singing at once. Fortunately, there is Larkwire, which uses a series of games to help you learn birdsong. You can get just the basics for where you live or set up game for just a particular type of bird like sparrows. What’s really amazing is that the app can figure out which types of songs are hard for you to ID, then keep adding them in to help you learn. You can purchase different version of this app based on region or species. It’s particularly useful for relearning warbler song in spring or learning birds in a part of the country that you plan to visit.

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