Whether you’re new to birding or have been bird watching for many years, you always need a guide to help you identify birds. Handbooks are good, but they can take up a lot of room and you need to carry them around with you. There are some very good apps you can use to help you find birds quickly and easily on your phone, so you can find out about them while you watch them.
Here we look at 5 apps which we think are informative and fun to use.
1. iBird Pro Guide to Birds
If you’re looking for an app which helps you identify birds when you’re out in the field, then the iBird Pro Guide to Birds is an excellent method of identification for all birds in North America. You can also supplement the database by purchasing other countries, so you can carry on your bird watching while you travel. There’s no need any longer to have multiple apps as you can save space by having all your reference guides in one place.
Each species has detailed descriptions with all the information to help you identify them. This includes color, size, shape and even information about their habitat and behavior. Sharing the birds you have found is also easy with a page specifically to help you share, and you can do this via Email, Facebook or Messages. Each species has a photograph and illustration so you can compare it with any photographs you have taken.
As you build up your own database of birds you can sort them to find them easily again. The sort option allows you to organize them by first or last name of the bird, or you can search by the family name. For the more experienced birder you can even find your birds using their Latin name.
To help you follow migration patterns, there are detailed maps showing the migratory routes of 40 different species, so if you can see at a glance if a bird will be in your local area.
iBird Pro is also up-to-date with the 2018 AOU and ABA checklists. This includes any changes which have been made to common names, families or orders.
The app can be used on multiple devices, so if you enjoy bird watching as a family, you can each have it installed on your own phones or tablets. You don’t even have to be connected to the internet to use the app once it’s been installed.
As well as the comprehensive information in the app, there are various smaller in-app purchases if you find you need them. These include the option to find birds by the time they are active, ie, day, night or dusk, and birds which are local to your area,
It also offers a great in-app purchase called ibird Sleuth. With iBird Sleuth you don’t need to enter any details about the bird. You can just take a snap, load it and it will identify the bird for you.
- Has information on 963 species of North American birds, including common, uncommon and rare species.
- Ideal for novice birders and those with more experience
- Provides information about: appearance, habitat, behavior, conservation, size, weight, color, pattern, shape, sexual differences
- Illustrations and photographs, including perching and flight views
- Includes upgrades for other countries, such as UK and Palau
- Up-to-date with 2018 AOU and ABA checklists
- Share your birds via Email, Messsages or Facebook
- Sort your birds by first, last and family name and view birds by text, icon, thumbnail or gallery
- Maps showing migratory routes of 40 different species.
- Can be installed on multiple devices
- No internet connection needed
Many users are very happy with this app, giving it positive reviews. One reviewer says that ‘ It has all the content I want – illustrations, photos, range maps, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology sounds, natural history and identification info and more,’ and it ‘makes it easy to search through it just about any way you want.’ When it comes to identification, ‘This app has replaced a shelf full of bird books. I find it handier to have the songs and calls right along with the bird descriptions.’ Other reviewers have also pointed out that the app means you don’t need to take so many items out in to the field with you. As one reviewer says, ‘When I went into the field I would take two books with me; one with hand drawn pictures and one with photographs. Plus I took a notebook and pencils. Even with that information, identification can sometimes be difficult. Now when I go out I slip my Kindle fire into my pocket and go. Easy as that.’
iBird app costs $14.99, with in-app purchases available.
Where to buy
2. Audubon Bird Guide
Audubon has a reputation for providing the best bird information, and this app is no exception. It has information to help you identify over 800 different species of bird in North America. This is a great app for birders of all experience levels, and not only that but it’s free to download.
When you spot a bird, you just enter the details of size, color, location and anything else you noticed and the app will find the nearest matches. The Audubon Bird Guide includes over 3,000 photographs of different birds, so you can always find the one you want. There are detailed descriptions of each bird with information about them, all written by expert Kenn Kaufman.
Bird song is another method of identifying birds you can’t see, and this app includes over 8 hours of clips of bird songs and calls. With migratory patterns it can be hard to locate a bird but there are maps for each season, so you can see where and when each species will be throughout the year.
Once identified you can then keep track of every bird you’ve seen and where and when you saw it. When you want to find a bird, you can search by a number of different criteria, including location, song, pattern or time of year. All information is stored in the app so wherever you are, you can sit and watch the birds. There is the option to share your photos with other bird users using the photo feed, so other app users can see your own photos and portfolio.
This app also provides you with information about birding hotspots which are close to your location with real-time sightings. So if you are looking for a particular sighting, you’ll be kept advised.
Audubon also provides up-to-date information about birds, including news about birds and bird conservation. If you’re looking for a local group, the app can also help you find the one nearest to you.
- Identifies over 800 species of North American birds
- Over 3,000 photographs
- Over 8 hours of audio clips of songs and calls
- Range maps for each season
- Detailed descriptions and information about each species and bird
- Keeps a record of all birds sighted
- Includes birding hotspots and real-time sightings
- Share your photos with other app users
- Search by pattern, wing shape, bird song, or location
- News and information about birds and conservation
- Find your nearest Audubon location
The Audubon Bird Guide has received good reviews for its content and how easy it is to use. One reviewer states that it is an ‘Easy to use identification tool and a user friendly sighting log make this a fun app to use when getting the family outside.’ When it comes to identification ‘I also love the species information, as it allows us to learn about the birds we see. Including the various calls for each type of bird was a nice touch too.’ When out in the field, ‘it’s very nice to have all of those resources downloaded! The app runs really well and smoothly and the custom lists tool is really helpful for a lot of things!’ Even backyard birders can benefit from this app. ‘After placing a feeder in our back yard, we are now seeing many different species and are now able to easily identify them using the Bird ID feature of this app.’
The Audubon Bird Guide is free to download
Where to buy
Another good app for both beginners and experienced birders is Ebird.
It is great for beginners to identify birds, but it can also help more experienced birders to keep track of their sightings. If you have a photo of the bird, you can load it to the app and it will identify it for you. If you don’t you can enter the details of the bird such as its size, color of its head, the color of the beak, and it will show you the birds which match.
It can even distinguish between the male and female of each species so you can keep a careful eye on which birds you’ve seen.
Every time you enter a bird, it tags the location, which provides you and other users the chance to see which birds are currently active in your local area.
Ebird is a very good way of keeping a diary of all your bird sightings and of sharing them with others. If you want to look back over your birds, you can use the search facility to sort them in to a list you can view.
If you’re traveling, this is a good app to help you find birds local to the area too.
- Let’s you submit your bird sightings
- Identifies birds based on color, size, beak and tail
- Shows the difference in bird sexes
- Identifies by photographs
- Tags the location of each sighting
- Great birding diary
Ebird is a popular app among birdwatchers. Thanks to this app you will become ‘addicted to counting and entering the birds you see.’ It is ‘so easy to record sightings in the field. I have had no problems uploading my life list, and find the whole thing a joy to use.’ The app is always being updated and ‘I love the newest update which brought in the GPS tracking and time tracker. It also helps give a more accurate account of how long I was out birding. All in all I love this app and it is constantly improving.’
Ebird is free to download
Where to buy
BirdsEye is perfect for those who like to travel and enjoy birding at the same time. It will track your location, so no matter where you are, it will tell you which the most common species are in that area, and it has bird references for all over the World.
The app has a lot of useful information about birds, and provides information on hotspots for any birds which have been reported in your local area. The app will even give you directions so you can drive you each location.
All birders have a list of birds which they’d like to see, and you can add your list to the app. It will give you all the local sightings of each bird and it can also offer you suggestions if other birds are reported in your area.
The library of birds has over 5,000 photographs, and you can add your photographs too.
If you’re planning a trip anywhere in the World it’s worth taking out a subscription, as you can find out which birds you are likely to see while you are there, and even find out about any sightings in any part of the World.
There are a few subscriptions levels for this app, and the option you choose will be based on your birding activity. The free download is for beginners or for those who enjoy birding locally. This will show you the 100 most common birds in your area, anywhere in the World. There are monthly subscriptions for North America, which unlocks all the birds in the US and Canada, and also a subscription which unlocks all birds in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
- Shows birds local to you, anywhere in the World
- Shows birding hotspots and local sightings
- Provides information about seasonal birding activity
- Gives up-to-date information about sightings of rare birds
- Lets you create a list of birds you want to see and offers suggestions to add to it
- Subscription plan shows sightings in favorite locations around the World
- Over 5,000 photographs of birds
- Information on 25,000 hotspots
- Free subscription shows the 100 most common birds locally
- Paid subscription shows every bird anywhere in the World
With the information in BirdsEye, reviews are naturally positive. It is ‘Overall a very good app for bird identification and locating nearby species (especially like the ‘Rare species’ locator),’ and the fact that its ‘compatibility with eBird is also a great feature that allows you to check already seen species off’ makes it even more informative. It is ‘the perfect app for finding nearby birds because it’s powered by the real-time observations submitted to eBird and the GBBC.’
Unlike other birding apps, BirdsEye offers different subscription levels based on your experience and birding activity.
- Free subscription: provides information on 100 birds locally
- $2.99 a month (with 1 month free trial): North America Membership provides information on all birds in Canada and the US
- $1.99 a month (with 1 month free trial): Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Membership, provides information on birds in these areas.
- $34.99 a year (with 1 month free trial): World Membership provides information on all birds in your location, anywhere in the World.
Where to buy
More videos on their YouTube channel.
Larkwire is a fun way to identify birds and it does so more in the form of a game. It offers a different way of learning about birds, as it does so through bird song. You can use the app to identify birds and find out more about them, or simply test yourself on your bird sounds knowledge
The app uses sounds from the Macaulay Library at Cornell and the Borror Lab at Ohio State, and has at least 3 versions of every type of bird call or song. It has been split in to 3 levels based on your birding experience: beginner, intermediate and advanced. You start off with the easier bird songs and as you progress the calls and songs get harder.
You can even choose which species you learn and when you want to learn them. The songs are in no set order, so you can search for a particular species of birds to learn them first.
There are two different apps, depending on which type of birds you want to learn about. One is for land birds of North America and one is water birds of North America.
- Beginner, intermediate and advanced levels
- Up to 9 recordings for one type of song
- Test yourself on your knowledge of birdsong
- Learn to identify birds in the field without seeing them
- Sounds based on the Macaulay Library, Cornell, and the Borror Lab, Ohio State
- Choose which species you want to learn first
Reviews for this app confirm just how enjoyable it is. While most birders like to identify by sight, ‘With the help of this app, I have made the plunge into birding by ear, and it has truly changed me from a casual birder to a serious one.’ The app ‘is not intimidating to a beginner but is also useful to the seasoned veteran.’ With ‘multiple recordings it which prevents you from memorizing a specific recording rather than the pattern of the song.’
Larkwire costs $14.99 to download
Where to buy