If you were lucky enough to get a new smart phone or tablet for Christmas you really ought to try out some of the best apps for learning to identify birds by their songs and/or by sight. There are a lot of really low cost and interesting ones available and some even have free mini versions that you can try before you buy. The listing below is adapted from a blog post I found on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. These are the apps I personally use but there are others listed so if you want to see all that are available visit http://blog.allaboutbirds.org/2013/12/05/our-review-best-iphone-apps-for-learning-bird-songs.
Learning bird sounds is probably the single most important skill in moving from beginning birding to intermediate birding. And from that point onward, using sounds to your advantage is an essential tool and an endless source of learning, discovery, and enjoyment. Some apps focus specifically on learning sounds; some provide a comprehensive collection of sounds but little instruction; and some reproduce complete field guides, adding songs but not focusing on them. Which type is right for you? It depends on your objective. If you want to practice and improve your sound identification skills, it’s well worth the extra price to choose one of the dedicated learning apps. However, if you’re just looking for an overall reference that allows you to check on bird songs one species at a time, you may find that a single field guide app is enough, then again, you may want them all.
My favorite apps to get you started:
1) BirdTunes – Sound-focused app with very extensive sounds including geographical variation and, often, chip notes. A Favorites list lets you make a shortlist of species. One photo per species; this is not a field guide app. Also available are BirdTunes Basic that includes 135 species for $1.99, and BirdTunes Lite that is free and includes 24 common bird species.
2) BirdJam (free, but requires BirdJam Maker and Stokes recordings; 64.8 MB download)
Sound-focused app that organizes the sounds from the Stokes field guide series. Additional Birdjam apps include a warbler-specific and a sparrow-specific app, $4.99 each.
3) iBird (938 species; $7.99; also available for Android) A Field guide app with focus on visual ID. Features multiple sound examples per species and a helpful list of similar species playable from the same page. Also features sound spectrograms, which can be very helpful for studying sound details. Also available, a backyard version covering 231 species, $2.99.
4) Sibley eGuide (810+ species; $19.99; also available for Android) Field guide app with focus on visual ID, featuring extensive, detailed images from the extremely popular print field guide. An extensive set of sounds includes song and call examples with good text descriptions. There is also a free version of the app that contains 30 species.
5) Audubon Birds Pro (821 species; $14.99; also available for Android) A Field guide app with focus on visual ID. Options to search for species by region, month, and abundance. Integration with NatureShare social network is highlighted throughout app. Option to look for nearby birds using eBird. Audubon also has a host of other apps covering geographic regions and other insects, wildlife, and plants: price range from free to $19.99.
By Cecilia M. Riley, Executive Director