Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Merlin IDs House Finch

Merlin is a new, free iPhone/iPad app from the Cornell Laboratory for Ornithology to assist beginning birders. When you see a bird, what Merlin does is ask you five questions. Where are you? (Merlin automatically knows your present location—but perhaps you want to identify a bird from somewhere else.) When did you see the bird? (Merlin knows today’s date.) What size is the bird? (Sparrow, robin, crow, goose?) What are the main colors? (You have nine colors to pick from, and you can pick more than one.) What was the bird doing? (At a feeder, swimming, soaring, etc.) 

And, voila, you are presented list drawn up from current, local eBird records of possible birds matching your answers. Despite only including 285 species of birds, the odd thing is that this app seems to work. Merlin had no trouble identifying both sexes of House Finches currently flocking at my bird feeder. My non-birding son in Seattle only looks at birds in his backyard and was pleased when Merlin identified a Red-breasted Nuthatch for him.

If you are a beginning birder or know someone who is, I think it is worth your time to investigate Merlin by clicking on this link: Merlin Bird ID. Note that you do need a WIFI connection to download and use the app—included are many photos and sound recordings, as well as its use of eBird. An Android version is due out later this spring.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a moderator for Cornell's Red-tailed Hawk NestCam, and got to be a beta tester for the Merlin App. It's an awesome App, but it is geared for beginning birders. It's accuracy is pretty impressive, though!