Continuing and rapid changes in technology has irrevocably changed much of the face of society, from how we buy goods and services to how we interact with each other and countless other ways in between. Birding has not gone untouched by the technological revolution either, particularly in the area of mobile applications (better known as “apps”). So for those that have not yet availed themselves of the potent technology able to be at their fingerprints to assist in their birding endeavors, whether on an iPod, smartphone or tablet, consider this a crash course in just what is now possible.
Many birders have extensive field guides that they use as a catch-all resource for everything they might want to know about species of birds – from size and color to range maps and diets, and everything in between. But toting around and consulting one of these *quite often large* books can be a challenge after a while, so many of the publishers have taken all that information and digitized it for much more convenient use. Not only is more information – such as song clips – usually added, but there are also many ways by which to quickly and effectively search through the birds to find just what you’re looking for.
- Examples: iBird Pro, Peterson’s Birds of North America, Audubon Birds App – A Field Guide to North American Birds, National Geographic’s Handheld Birds, Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America
But suppose you just want to cut right to the chase of learning to identify a bird by its song. If that’s the case, then there are several apps that focus solely on bird calls and helping you get better at differentiating them from each other. Whether through a game interface or simple search functions, these apps will have you knowing just what kind of bird you’re hearing in no time. But be careful when using one of them outdoors with no headphones, for you may accidentally attract birds that hear what they believe to be the song of one of their fellows. Conversely, these apps can also be used to purposefully attract specific birds to you.
- Examples: Larkwire, Chirp! Bird Song USA +, BirdTunes
Many birders keep detailed notes on when and where they see certain birds, but some may find it annoying to take the time to write it down in a field book or wait until they get home to enter it into their computer. Several apps make it easier to instantly and quickly record these sightings, along with added functions such as lists and precise mapping.
- Examples: BirdsEye BirdLog, Birdwatcher’s Diary, Lifebirds Journal, My Bird Observations
There is also one other app that is rather in a class of its own, called BirdsEye. It relies on eBird, an online database of worldwide bird observations instituted in 2002 by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University. eBird, in turn, relies on detailed submissions from birders around the world, both on their own and through the BirdLog app. What BirdsEye primarily does is plot all these observations on a map, allowing birders a wealth of opportunity to both learn what birds have been seen in their neighborhood and what birds have been seen in different places all around the world.
Keep in mind that although many of the apps named above cost money, there are also usually free – albeit less extensive – versions offered. With all this technology at your disposal, you can’t go wrong in choosing helpful aids for your adventures with our fine feathered friends. Happy birding!
- By Sean Peick (Guest Writer)
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