Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cornell Lab Offers New App to Identify Birds

Merlin Cornell Bird AppYou’ve heard the question a million times: What bird is that? Now Cornell Lab of Ornithology have a new way to get an answer.   Merlin is a free iPhone app developed by the Cornell Lab to help beginners and intermediate bird watchers identify 285 species in North America.

Merlin draws upon 70 million eBird sightings to calculate which species you’re most likely to encounter within about a 30-mile radius of your location at the time when you saw the bird. The app asks five questions about size, location, and so on. Then it displays a range of photos showing birds that match your description. The app also comes with more than 1,400 photos, plus ID tips, sounds, and range maps for each species.

You can download the Merlin Bird ID app right now from the App Store.

The Cornell Lab plans to release Merlin for Android and online use in the coming months, and will continue to add more species, they said in a recent press release.

The new app was made possible with the support of the National Science Foundation, Pennington Wild Bird Food, and friends and members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

You can visit the Merlin website to watch a video about how the app works: birds.cornell.edu/Merlin.

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3 Responses

  1. Jim Bullard says:

    Sounds great but, like the majority of “mobile device” users I run Android, not iOS. Can somebody explain to me why all these app developers do their apps first (and often exclusively) for iOS which is a minority of users?

    • Hillel B says:

      ‘Yeh, I’m often disappointed with this too. I’ve got a nice Android tablet.
      I have a colleague who does a good bit of programming for mobile devices, and he says it’s because the hardware is strictly defined for Apple. So for all the various I/O functions and communication with the hardware, Android is a nightmare, just because of the variety of hardware out there. I can’t confirm this, but it’s what I hear. You’d think there’d be some standard spec and or protocol for this for all Android hardware — some standard programming interface.
      In part, it’s also because the developers write code that’s compiled for the specific hardware or API. Other approaches like with the FirefoxOS, write programs strictly in HTML5 and Javascript, so it doesn’t matter what device it runs on. This is what I’d like to see more of, so address your concern. You’re not alone!

  2. Hillel B says:

    My first experience with the app wasn’t so good. I used the “wizard” that is the default start, to ID a bird I saw (and other reliable sources locally report), and it didn’t even come up on the list of possible identifications. I know the species is included in the app, by going to browse the list from the home page. ‘Not even close.