There's never been a better time to get into birding. In the past, people used to use field guides to identify the birds they were seeing. Today, there are a number of apps that can help you identify the birds you're seeing on your bird watching journey.
The three apps this article will be going over are Audubon, eBird, and Merlin Bird ID. All three apps are free and available on the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store, though on eBird and Merlin you will have to create an account.
Audubon is the first birding app we will be going over. It is run by the National Audubon Society, an organization dedicated to birding and the preservation of birds. The National Audubon Society has organizations all over the country, including hundreds of local offices with a location most likely near you. They also host local events like bird walks where you can meet like-minded birders to enjoy the hobby with.
Audubon's app is free and you do not need to create an account to use it. The first notable feature the app has is the explore tab. This is a map of your local area with markers for individual birding spots. You can click on a spot (for example, near me, is Sandy Hook South Beach Area, Sandy Hook C Lot and Beach, and Hartshorne Woods) to bring up the birds people have spotted in this area.
In each area is a list of the bird species people have seen in that area along with the date and time of the sighting. If you click on the Photo Feed section of the explore tab, you can also see pictures of birds in the region that people have uploaded, along with the species name.
You can also mark your own bird sightings in your local region as well as upload photos of the birds that you take.
It was surprising to me, but there is quite a lot of birding data on Audubon's app. People in the birding community have really filled it up with a lot of useful bird sightings and data. There are a ton of spots mapped out for birding and a ton of data on what species are at each site.
You can also keep track of your bird sightings, the locations you have been to, and your life list of birds you want to see.
The last major feature of Audubon's app is a Field Guide that gives you information on each bird, such as photos, a description, and facts on the species. This section also gives bird sightings for each bird, so you can find specific spots you can go to if you want to see that specific bird.
eBird is the next birding app people should know about. It is free but you do need to make an account. eBird hosts a map similar to Audubon (eBird is actually the database Audubon gets its data from). eBird's map gives different birding locations which you can click on to see what species have been observed in that location. The app also gives the time period each bird was observed in (by month) and whether it was observed in the past seven days.
eBird's other feature is a checklist, to check off which birds you want to see on your trip. Once you check them off, you can upload the data back to eBird to contribute back to the community on bird locations.
Merlin Bird ID is the last really useful app for people beginning in birding. If you want to upload your birding data to Audubon or eBird, you're going to have to identify which bird you're seeing. Merlin Bird ID accomplishes exactly that. Once you install the app and create an account, the app will ask you five questions: Where did you see the bird, When did you see the bird, What size was the bird, What color was the bird, and Where in the environment (like on the ground or in a tree) was the bird.
Then the app comes up with a list of possible birds. Each bird comes with multiple pictures and a description. If you find the bird you saw, you can mark it and send the data to eBird to help other fellow birders.
If you can't get enough of your birding fix, other birding apps are available on the App Store that act as book-like field guides, or you could also go the old-fashioned route and pick up a physical field guide to the bird species in your region.
Best of luck in your birding adventures!
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