Thanks to a new generation of smartphone applications, learning how to identify birds has never been easier or faster. With the spring bird migration at its peak and the Leelanau Birding Festival kicking off in little over a week (May 28th), now’s a perfect time to check out some of the best ones out there for the novice.

Download one or all of these free app options and find out how fun birding can be this summer.

Peterson Feeder Birds of North America



Drawing from the best-selling “Peterson Field Guide” series, the basic “backyard” version of this app offers barebones information on 160 birds common throughout North America.  Peterson’s Birds uses a four-stage tap and swipe search option that is super-easy to use. Information includes illustrations, some basic information and audio examples of bird songs.

Merlin Bird ID

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From Cornell University, Merlin Bird ID is a birding app that makes identifying birds so easy a child could do it. Just answer five simple questions about the bird in question and Merlin comes up with a list of possible matches based on your location. While this app focuses on visual identification, it also includes some sounds. Merlin covers 285 of the most common bird species in the U.S. and Canada and includes more than 100 photos and sounds from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library. Powered by eBird to deliver the most accurate results based on millions of sightings from bird watchers across North America, Merlin also gives you ID tips from Cornell Lab of Ornithology experts.




Developed by computer scientists, Birdsnap is a new and very different from any other birding app out there. Utilizing similar technology used in human face recognition software, designers engineered Birdsnap so that users can identify a bird from a uploaded photo and /or one taken with your Iphone. From the same app developer who created Leafsnap—a handy electronic field guide that utilizes photos of leaves taken with your Iphone to identifying trees—Birdsnap knows which birds are present (based on your location and time of year) and can use this to produce a custom guide to the local birds and to improve the automatic identification results. It covers 500 of the most common North American bird species.