Shazam for Birds: Cornell's Merlin Bird ID App Now Identifies Birds by Their Song

·2 min read

Thanks to the free Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, you'll never have to guess at the source of a birdsong again. With a groundbreaking new update, you can now identify a bird just by holding up your phone.

The new feature users are calling the "Shazam for birds" listens along with you, using AI technology to identify each species in an instant, displaying a list and photos of the birds that are singing or calling.

Birders have long been fans of Merlin, which launched in 2014 with the ability to identify bird species based on photos or descriptions. Now, it can also identify more than 400 bird species throughout the United States and Canada simply by sound.

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat

Brad Imhoff/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

"Thousands of sound recordings train Merlin to recognize each bird species, and more than a billion bird observations in eBird tell Merlin which birds are likely to be present at a particular place and time," Drew Weber, Merlin project coordinator, said in a news release. "Having this incredibly robust bird dataset—and feeding that into faster and more powerful machine-learning tools—enables Merlin to ID birds by sound now, when doing so seemed like a daunting challenge just a few years ago."

But wait, there's more! Merlin can identify individual bird sounds even when multiple birds are singing at the same time. After you record sounds, you can select a species and see the spot in the recording where its song or call occurred.

"The Merlin app really unlocks a whole new world of sound," Cornell Lab's Jessie Barry, whose team led the project, said in a news release. "It helps everyone solve the mystery birds they're hearing around them, and the technology that powers Merlin sound identification can also be used for research and conservation, opening up new possibilities for the way scientists can monitor, study, and protect birds."

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The Merlin Bird ID app with the new Sound ID feature is available for free on iOS and Android devices. Visit Merlin.AllAboutBirds.org for more information and to download.

Happy birding!