One of the most useful skills for birders is learning to recognize birdsongs by ear. Just when you think you’ve heard a Robin, a bright red bird shows up instead. It’s a Summer Tanager, often described as a Robin with a sore throat. And what about those cute little nuthatches? They all sound a bit like squeaky toys, but which species is which?
Not a moment too soon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has just added sound recognition to its free Merlin Bird ID app. This birdsong tool turns a great birding app into a superb one.
When you’re outside and not sure what bird you’re hearing, you can press a button on the app to record a clip of the song. Instantly, Merlin will suggest the most likely songsters. It doesn’t guarantee 100 percent accuracy all of the time, but this is the next best thing to having an expert “ear” birder at your side wherever you go.
We’ve been using a version of this software in another Cornell app called BirdNET for the past year or so. Now a version of a similar system has been added to Merlin to give the lab’s most popular app four different ways of identifying birds. The sound element is easy to use and also helps you to get more familiar with those hard-to-remember calls and songs.
Merlin and BirdNET are both available for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play. If you’ve already got the Merlin app, you can add the sound recognition element with a quick upgrade. Here’s Cornell’s list of instructions for everything you need to know about how to use Sound ID.
Over the past year, as scores of people discovered the joys of birding during the stay-at-home stage of the pandemic, we built a section on Flying Lessons called Beverly’s Basics to help newcomers get started. This post will be added to our library of stories that range from how to get started to buying your first binoculars to what to take along on the trail.