With origins in the Anglo-Saxon world, where it grew up alongside the ideas of nature walks and those of cataloguing the natural world, bird watching as an organized activity has spread to regions all over the world. It’s pursued especially passionately in wetlands and other protected natural areas. But birding is much more than what the name implies. It’s also about learning to await that brief moment… knowing all the while that it may never happen.

Thus guides to birding have proliferated on the Internet, providing for the immediacy of information necessary to identifying species “on the fly.” One need only describe a bird’s form, upload a photo or search by color, location, or habitat, to identify the bird that’s appeared. That’s to say, the knowledge game has been simplified even while it’s grown in sophistication. Today, anyone can know, even those who never thought they’d be able to. One can identify a mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) merely by its song or easily distinguish a frigate (Fregata magnificens) from a cormorant (Phalacrocoracidae).

We recommend the following birding apps, which are believed to be the best available.

Warblr

This app was created by Queen Mary University of London and works like Shazam, the music discovery app. Warblr identifies birds by referencing a database of recorded calls, and returns a list of likely results.

Merlin

Developed by ornithologists from Cornell University, Merlin is highly recommended for both beginning and intermediate bird enthusiasts. It will identify more than 400 common birds, and returns both photographs and descriptions for any search. And it’s usually surprisingly accurate.

eBird

Designed by Citizen Science, eBird collects observations from birders around the world along with the taxonomies of each bird. It now encompasses virtually every known bird on Earth. Select your own location and you’ll get a complete list of all the birds inhabiting your region.

 * Image: engraved illustration from the 18th-century by Francois Nicolas Martinet.

With origins in the Anglo-Saxon world, where it grew up alongside the ideas of nature walks and those of cataloguing the natural world, bird watching as an organized activity has spread to regions all over the world. It’s pursued especially passionately in wetlands and other protected natural areas. But birding is much more than what the name implies. It’s also about learning to await that brief moment… knowing all the while that it may never happen.

Thus guides to birding have proliferated on the Internet, providing for the immediacy of information necessary to identifying species “on the fly.” One need only describe a bird’s form, upload a photo or search by color, location, or habitat, to identify the bird that’s appeared. That’s to say, the knowledge game has been simplified even while it’s grown in sophistication. Today, anyone can know, even those who never thought they’d be able to. One can identify a mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) merely by its song or easily distinguish a frigate (Fregata magnificens) from a cormorant (Phalacrocoracidae).

We recommend the following birding apps, which are believed to be the best available.

Warblr

This app was created by Queen Mary University of London and works like Shazam, the music discovery app. Warblr identifies birds by referencing a database of recorded calls, and returns a list of likely results.

Merlin

Developed by ornithologists from Cornell University, Merlin is highly recommended for both beginning and intermediate bird enthusiasts. It will identify more than 400 common birds, and returns both photographs and descriptions for any search. And it’s usually surprisingly accurate.

eBird

Designed by Citizen Science, eBird collects observations from birders around the world along with the taxonomies of each bird. It now encompasses virtually every known bird on Earth. Select your own location and you’ll get a complete list of all the birds inhabiting your region.

 * Image: engraved illustration from the 18th-century by Francois Nicolas Martinet.

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