One of the key elements of birding is the process of identifying individual birds to the correct species. Some species are extremely distinctive looking and easy to differentiate, but then there are some that are quite similar to the point where even seasoned birders have some trouble making a positive ID. Whether you’re a beginner just learning the basics, or a veteran birder who wants to brush up on some tricky IDs, here are 3 tools that can help you correctly identify birds.
Merlin Bird ID and Other Apps
There are numerous apps out there specifically for identifying birds such as the Audobon and Sibley bird guide apps that allow users access to ID info on their phone. There are also many apps that walk users through the process of identification and end up giving the user suggestions for what the bird most likely is
One of the most popular of these apps is Merlin. Merlin has a ton of different features to help users easily figure out what bird they are looking at or hearing. With a step-by-step wizard that askes the user questions about the birds size, shape, and color, visual recognition from photos, and even call recognition, the merlin birding app is currently unmatched in terms of leading the user to an accurate identification.
While these apps can be instrumental in learning about identifying birds and even arriving at the correct conclusion about which species an individual belongs to, they are not without their shortcomings. The suggested birds aren’t accurate 100 percent of the time and it’s worth double checking any ID given from any of these apps.
Facebook groups are a fantastic resource for identifying birds. With tons of experienced birders in state or regional birding groups, there will almost certainly be someone in the group that can help you arrive at a correct ID. Additionally there are birding groups on Facebook specifically made for people to get answers on their identification questions. Some of the ones I use most often are What’s this Bird? American birding association and the bird identification group of the world. Similarly to the ID apps, sometimes people will make incorrect ID suggestions on Facebook groups as well, but most of the time the right conclusion will eventually be reached.
Bird Guide Books
Sometimes the old school way of doing things can also be the best. Hard copy bird guides are still incredibly useful when it comes to identifications. With many to choose from including Sibley, Stokes, Peterson and Kaufman just to name a few, there is a lot of variety in terms of how the information in these books is presented and plenty of debate over which one is the best. Additionally, there are field guides available for specific states, countries, and provinces as well that are great for learning the birds in your own backyards, or the species you are likely to encounter on a vacation.
Many of these bird guides offer side by side comparisons and note the field markings of the bird and how to differentiate between similar species. Overall, sometimes it’s just helpful to crack open a book and do some research to figure out what a bird is on your own.
All three of these tools can be incredibly useful in understanding which species you’re looking at in the field. While individually each one is of great help, using all three is even better as you can thoroughly explore all of the possibilities. Which one of these tools do you prefer using? Let us know in the comments below.