I visit Tim Boucher’s blog on The Nature Conservancy’s website every week or so to see what’s new, and this last check-up I noticed an old post from 2013 that’s been edited to include observations on fresh updates for phone apps that help identify birds, like Merlin, which I’ve covered in the past.
So far I haven’t purchased any bird identification application for my phone, mostly because there are good ones like Merlin and Audubon available for free in the US, but I’ve been considering a $9.99 app for the birds of Costa Rica, made by bird-watching guides both in CR and Panama.
Boucher doesn’t rank the apps in his order of preference, but it looks like from his reviews that he prefers the Audubon and Merlin apps for the fact that they’re free and utilitarian, though Merlin is geared more towards beginners. He’s also pretty positive about the Sibley and Peterson apps, both of which started with physical book versions of their guides.
Boucher’s key points are:
- Ease of use in finding a bird via image or search text function, for all from novice birders to advance birders;
- The type (photo or painting) and number of images the app provides;
- How easy is it to listen to a song/call through the app (and how many songs it makes available); and
- Whether the app allows you to compare similar birds and in which ways.
- All 5 of these apps offer some bonus features — but generally, I am comparing basic features that all share. Of course, some things are a matter of personal preference, such as illustrations versus photos.
All of these apps need a lot of space (and a WiFi connection) to download (~500 MB+), but then you can use them offline when in the field, which is very nice. With new smart phones having lots of space, this shouldn’t be an issue, but older ones could struggle.
Read Boucher’s full reviews of each app here.