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New app can identify 458 bird species by their songs

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers the Merlin Bird ID app for free.

Logo of Merlin Bird ID app with bird sitting on branch
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is offering a free app, Merlin Bird ID, that can identify the sounds of 458 bird species across North America. This bird is a yellow-throated warbler.
Contributed / Ryan Sanderson, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

In between snowstorms lately, we’ve been able to enjoy the sounds of spring as our feathered friends wing north again for summer.

Everyone knows the sound of a Canada goose honking and probably a cardinal singing. But what about all those other bird songs we’re hearing?

The folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have developed a free app for your phone that can identify the voices of 458 bird species in the U.S. and Canada. You can also identify the bird using more than 80,000 photos on file.

The new Merlin Bird ID app makes it easy to identify birds as they’re singing. Simply hold your phone up, tap the "Sound ID" button, and Merlin shows you the name of each bird detected, in real time, along with a photo to help you clinch the ID.

The app is available at App Store for Apple and Google Play for Android phones. It can pull up a likely ID no matter what song or call a bird is making, even if many species are "talking" at once.

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Merlin Bird ID app
The Merlin Bird ID app uses your phone to listen to bird songs and pick out the species singing from among 458 birds across North America.
Contributed / Cornell Lab of Ornithology

"You get not only the thrill of identifying birds with Merlin, but you can learn about each bird with ID tips, range maps and more than 80,000 photos and sounds from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library," Merlin project leader Drew Weber said. "People are really blown away by Merlin's capability and depth. In addition to Sound ID, Merlin can also identify birds if you upload a photo or answer five questions about the bird you saw."

Merlin’s accurate and instantaneous answers are made possible by machine learning technology and by millions of birdwatchers who share their observations with eBird. Engineers at the Cornell Lab trained Merlin Sound ID using 750,000 recordings of bird sounds recorded by birdwatchers.

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John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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