This article compiles five of the best birding app options of the year, followed by a brief but comprehensive description. Together with this description, you can also read a few essential details that should help you pick the best app to identify birds. Whether you need to discover the species of a bird or find out some quick information about a winged creature in your backyard, these apps are there to help you. Some of the details you will read about include the speed with which the apps can find a bird, or how many creatures there are in their database.
1. Merlin Bird ID
The Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a free app specially created for beginner birders. It comes with a database that contains only the most common of North American birds, so chances are you won’t find a rare specimen too quickly. However, the search function is simple, consisting of questions like where and when you saw the bird, its color, size, and what it was doing.
- How fast can you find a bird: Approximately 7 seconds
- How many birds: 400, but only common species
- Photos/drawings: 8000 high-quality photographs taken by top photographers
- Recordings: 3000+ top-quality recordings
2. National Geographic Birds
National Geographic Birds is a much larger database usable by any birder, novice or expert. However, it is the best birding app for individuals with some mid-range experience in the field of birdwatching. You can either search for birds via the integrated search engine or search by location, size, or color. This way, you can identify birds that you have spotted outside. The search engine is user-friendly, as the list of suggestions gets updated as you add more letters in the query. While the photographs are quite small, pinch zoom will allow you to make them bigger.
- How fast can you find a bird: Approximately 5 seconds, extra seconds for having to tap the search button
- How many birds: 860
- Photos/drawings: 1600 high-quality photographs of birds, and 650 range maps with different colors for winter and summer ranges
- Recordings: Some, but it only contains a limited number of recordings available per species
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3. Peterson Birds
Peterson’s is well-known for creating detailed field guides, and this app makes no exception. It’s the best birding app for older birders that are used to printed field guides, as it presents the information in a similar way. It comes with an index where you can select a bird, and then the app sends you to its page. If you want to make things quicker, you can also use the search engine.
Once you find the bird you were looking for, you can view illustrations of the bird and maps of the areas it populates. The app contains illustrations instead of pictures, which provides a lot more details on the anatomy of the bird. It’s the best bird watching app to include checklists that you can create yourself, recordings available for every bird, and you can even register your own sightings.
- How fast can you find a bird: Approximately 5 seconds due to two extra taps to get to the search engine
- How many birds: 800+
- Photos/drawings: One illustration per species instead of photographs (this is sometimes a major plus for detail-oriented birders), as well as 500 nest and egg photographs
- Recordings: Only 700 song recordings
4. iBird Pro
iBird Pro may cost you some pennies, but it’s definitely worth spending the money. This is the best birding app for both regular and experienced birders, as it provides both basic and advanced technology. The search engine allows you to search by so many different features of the bird’s appearance and habitat, returning quick, and accurate results.
Also, this is the best app to identify birds or to let you document your own sightings. This way, you can create new entries in the database. Each species’ page has tabs for sounds, similar birds, and journal, but if you look further in, there are additional tabs for identification or ecology. As it provides fascinating information, this is the best birding app to teach you about the birds of North, Central, and South America.
- How fast can you find a bird: Instant search
- How many birds: 946 in the Ultimate version
- Photos/drawings: High-quality full-size color illustrations, perching and flight views, and full-color range maps
- Recordings: Lifelike songs and calls for most birds
5. Audobon Birds
Audobon Birds is the best birding app for thorough birders who pay attention to details, as it lets you search after a myriad of features about the bird’s description and habitat. It provides detailed descriptions of each species, along with high-quality photographs and recordings. Each species also has an up-to-date range map, while there are wintering maps available for 250+ birds. Last but not least, the app is totally free and available on all platforms. Overall, it’s highly reputable, efficient, and the best bird watching app for birders of all levels.
- How fast can you find a bird: Approximately 3 seconds
- How many birds: 760+
- Photos/drawings: Top-of-the-line color photographs
- Recordings: 2300+ top-quality recordings of bird songs
All the apps we listed in this article have advanced search engines, big databases, and detailed images and maps. However, we particularly liked the Merlin Bird ID and consider it the best birding app at the moment. If you have used a different app during your birdwatching sessions and were satisfied with it, please lets us know about it in the comments.
John Wagner says
I have one exception to the Peterson Field Guide. The search filters are incredibly inaccurate. For example if i search Michigan Oakland County in June Palm Warbler is listed as common yet the map shows it summering in northern Canada and wintering on the Gulf Coast. Another example is the inclusion of the Eared Grebe labeled as common when it is a a western species rarely seen east of the Rockies and western plains. The American White Pelican is also labeled common for southeastern Michigan though the closest is gets is is an southeast to northwest migration across parts of Iowa and Wisconsin. The American Avocet is is also included as common to southeast Michigan.
That said the rest of the app is great. I just do not use the filter or list creation feature.