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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Tech Tuesday- Merlin Bird ID


Last week ended up being much busier than I thought it would be, between all that I had planned and all that happened Tuesday came and went.  What I had wanted to be Tech Tuesday last week started to be Tech Thursday still a nice sound to that but I did not get things finished and it looked like Tech Friday would have to do but again my day had other plans.  So here we go Tech Tuesday it is.

This week we are going to look at the Merlin Bird ID app.  This app has been developed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and has some very nice features and has some drawbacks.  Like all of the Bird ID apps that we are going to look at the Merlin Bird ID app.  Like all of the apps this one has the basic information you find in any field guide (Range Maps, Descriptions of Habits, Habitats, and Images or Drawings of each of the birds) along with audio of the bird calls.  It also has some unique features as well.



The Merlin Bird ID is very easy to use and has one of the best user interfaces that are available in the bird ID apps that I have tested.  This is a great app for the beginning birder as well as the more advanced birder.  The simplicity of the app is one of the features that I think serves it best.  It does not bog the user down with too much information (an important feature when you are trying to identify a bird).  The app has the ability to use your location and the date to identify the most likely candidates for the area that you are exploring.  The simple interface allows you to choose the bird by size, color and what it is doing to narrow the list of results.  It uses very nice photos of the birds rather than drawings which is in my opinion better than line drawings as they tend to show the ideal bird and not actual bird.

The app is available in both iPhone and Android and the interface is the same on both platforms.  It also downloads all of the data that you will need to the phone so you do not have to have an internet connection to identify the birds.  Though if you do have access you can identify the bird in the app and report a sighting.  This builds the database for the birds in the areas that you bird improving the accuracy of the app.  One of the biggest things that I like about this app is that the full version of the app is free.  That’s right FREE.


I really do not have much to say on this side.  The drawbacks to this app are small and few.  First because it is putting a lot of data in the app it is large.  I do mean large.  On a fast Wi-Fi connection it will likely take you a few minutes to download and install.  It is not something that you would want to do in the field as the app will take a lot of data to put on your phone.  That leads to the second small issue that I have with the app.  It is large.  This app is well over half a Gig in size (656 MB).  For the less computer literate most apps run about 65 to 100 MB.  Finally if you want to report a sighting to your life list on eBird you do have to go to the website to do that.  A small issue overall in this app.

Over all this is a very nice bird ID app and is in my opinion one of the best that is available on the market.  It have very few drawbacks and the good are significantly outweigh the bad.


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