If you’re interested in birds, you might have come across a strange-looking bird, or one with a peculiar call, and wondered what bird it was!
These days, with the power of specialized AI, and a smartphone in your pocket, it’s possible to identify that bird you’ve seen based on its features, such as color, tail, and even its call.
In this article, we’ll explore a few apps that not only let you identify birds by sound or by picture, but also contain guides to help you find specific birds that you might be seeking in a particular region.
Top apps to identify bird calls (AI-based Bird Identification)
Below are a few apps that enable you to identify a bird with picture or call sounds:
Merlin ID was created by birdwatchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It lets you identify the bird species by answering five simple questions about its features, and then either uploading a photo of the bird or recording its call.
The results you’ll get will vary based on the time of the year as well as your location, and also includes a detailed field guide containing 80000+ photos & sounds, maps, identification tips, and more. Merlin ID is unique in the way that it works for identifying birds globally, and is one of the only birding apps that offer AI-powered bird identification from both photos and sounds.
Features of Merlin ID
- Choose bird packs that contain photos, songs, and calls, and identification help for many regions around the world, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe, South Africa, Kenya, Northern Africa, the Middle East, Asia, India, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and more, and identify birds in offline mode. New regions are added every month.
- More than 50,000 photos of birds, including males, females, and juveniles.
- Listen to beautiful bird sounds, including more than 30,000 songs and calls curated by the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
- Identification tips in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Hebrew, German, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese, depending on the range of the species.
- Powered by eBird and the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to deliver the most accurate results based on millions of sightings, photos, and sounds from bird watchers across the world.
Audubon Bird Guide
Audubon is a bird guide that helps you identify more than 800 different North American bird species. With its all-new Bird ID feature, you can input different features of the bird you’ve seen, including its color, size, tail features, etc., and Bird ID will narrow down the possible results based on your location and current date.
Features of Audubon Bird Guide
- Bird Identification
- Learn about Birds around you
- Keep track of the birds you see
- Explore & Share the birds you find
- Get involved with the Audubon Community
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation.
Bird Song Id
This is another AI-based bird identification app that lets you identify a bird from its call. Bird Song Id claims to be the “Shazam for birdsong”, and is built specifically for identifying birds in the USA.
Record a bird’s warble, and let the app tell you what bird it is; the cleaner the recording, the more accurate the bird identification. You can collect these bird calls and maintain your birdsong diary.
Bird Song Id has been created by professional published ecologists. The app does not need an internet connection, all songs and calls are downloaded when the app is purchased (118+ bird species are included).
These are some of the most popular AI-based bird identification apps that primarily help you to identify birds based on their calls and visual features.
Similar App: The BirdNET research project uses artificial intelligence and neural networks to train computers to identify nearly 3,000 of the most common species of North America and Europe. It’s a joint project of the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Chemnitz University of Technology.
Top birding field guide apps for birdwatchers
Now, if you’re just looking for a birding app or guide that provides you with resources and documentation to help you identify a bird and learn more about your local bird habitat in general, here are some apps that you might want to try.
Birdseye is a great app to discover & learn about the different birds around you. You can also look for information on specific birds by looking them up in the app. It’s a great app for beginners and intermediate birders.
The free version of the app gives you access to 100 different birds in your locality. And when you’re ready, you can unlock the Premium version which gives you access to more birds in your region, as well as around the world.
Features of BirdsEye
Here’s a summary of all the features that you get in the BirdsEye app:
- See customized lists of birds reported recently near you, at birding hotspots, or at any random point on earth!
- See seasonal abundance for each bird for that location
- View recent eBird sightings and get driving directions to each one
- See a list of “needs” – species recently reported nearby that aren’t on your selected life or year list
- Reports of rare and notable birds in your area and across the ABA region
- Automatically sync your life or year lists with eBird for the ABA area, world, country, state, or even county!
- Find additional content in the Bird Guide Store for other continents, including sounds, images, and bird-finding tips from local experts.
- Set Favorite Locations for your destinations to scope out recent sightings
- Get driving directions right to any hotspot or sighting
- Support for bird names in several languages
The Premium features of BirdsEye include:
- More checklists for species on the Rare Bird Alert
- Rare Bird Alert – see the latest reported ABA rarities and eBird checklist
- Search for Notables up to 250 miles from the current location
- Unlimited Favorite Locations
- View Bird List for any month of the year
- Downloading content for offline use
If you’re more into birds of prey, like hawks or eagles, Raptor ID is for you. Raptor ID is designed by bird experts from HawkWatch International and Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
According to the official App Store description of the app, “HawkWatch International’s Identification Guide to Raptors” puts expert hawk identification content in the palm of your hand. In this guide to North America’s 34 species of diurnal raptors, you’ll find nearly 1000 annotated photos, and cutting-edge identification videos for each species, geared toward helping you identify raptors in flight.
Features of Raptor ID
- Comprehensive identification content created by Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan
- ~1000 annotated photos covering plumage, age/sex, and geographic variation
- Cutting edge ID-focused video showing each species in flight, including voice-over ID tips from Jerry Liguori
- Range maps with links to interactive seasonal eBird maps
- Vocalizations for each species
- ‘Ask the authors’ raptor ID question forum
Sibley Birds (2nd Edition)
Sibley Birds is a comprehensive guide for birders, with up-to-date information on over 930 species across the Americas. Artwork and information, including a detailed description, artwork, and distribution maps, are provided from “David Sibley’s Guide to Birds – Second Edition”. Having the app on your smartphone is like having a full-fledged bird encyclopedia in your pocket.
Features of Sibley Birds
The app’s features include:
- A new, easy-to-navigate menu system on iPhone.
- A new grid view with larger thumbnails.
- Display species names in English, French, Spanish, and Latin (Scientific).
- Search on banding code to quickly find a species.
- Over 2700 calls/songs covering most species.
- Compare 2 species side by side.
- Apply a location (US State or Canadian Province) to narrow down the list of birds.
- When a location has been selected, a status icon will appear next to each species in that location indicating whether it is Common, Uncommon, Scarce, Rare, or Vagrant.
- Detailed information in the species description including location status by month.
- A similar species feature, which shows all related birds.
- A vastly improved Smart Search with refined search criteria: Status and by month (when a location is selected), Bird habits, Bird Type, Bird Size, Body Shape, Color, and Pattern.
- Keep a personal list (My List) of species seen and backup to iCloud, or other cloud services.
- Build a custom sharable (as CSV) and searchable (in Smart Search) species list using the new My Tags feature.
- Sort My List taxonomically.
Collins Bird Guide
Similar to Sibley Birds, Collins Bird Guide is also a comprehensive field guide for passionate birders and casual birdwatchers alike. It combines world-class illustrations and comprehensive information with intuitive design and is based on the landmark book by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney, and Dan Zetterström (often regarded as the standard European field guide).
The app is built by birders natively for the iPhone & iPad, and contains rich illustrations, maps, bird calls, etc., augmenting the concise text-based descriptions.
Features of Collins Bird Guide
- Over 700 species covered
- 3500+ beautiful illustrations by Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterström
- Detailed text covering habitat, range, identification, and voice by Lars Svensson
- Record sightings, location, and date with the listing tool
- Powerful search filter
- Intuitive design to quickly and easily swipe through species
- Curated lists of confusable species
- Over 750 carefully selected songs and calls – many by Lars Svensson
- Select species names from 18 languages
- Expertly edited video clips for all 794 species in the app (In-App Purchases)
- Available in English, Swedish, Norwegian, French, and German
With that, we have covered a wide range of apps that provide you with the tools for quick bird identification and lookup. While some of these apps are AI-based bird identification apps, others are illustrative field guides and encyclopedias that weigh nothing extra and fit in your pocket.
Check out our dedicated article if you’re interested to learn about apps that help you identify plants.