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HomeArchive100 Days ARCHIVESummer Fun, Day 9: Backyard Birding Apps

Summer Fun, Day 9: Backyard Birding Apps

Late spring and early summer are the perfect times to observe and learn about the birds that live in our community. From the backyard to the nearest Chesapeake beach, you’ll find cool little forest birds, big raptors and beautiful songbirds.

Here are a few apps to take with you as you explore with the kids, and some tips from the Maryland Ornithological Society on how to learn more about the birds you observe.

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Merlin Bird
Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s app is the gold standard for bird watchers. The app is simple to use, you can learn ID tips from Cornell Lab of Ornithology experts, identify birds easily, see detailed pictures, and listen to bird calls. The app was created for birders and bird watchers of every level, so you can get simple information or dive deeper into learning about your find. Plus, it’s free!

SongSleuth logo

Want to know who is singing those chirps, peeps and songs in your backyard? SongSleuth is on the case. The free automatic bird song identifier covers the 200 most common vocalizing land birds in North America. When you enter your state, you can search by the species lists, which will tell you how likely it is that you’ll hear that bird near you at the moment. Or upload your own recording and SongSleuth will tell you what it is. Coupled with great illustrations of the birds, you’ll be a backyard bird pro in no time.

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Raptor ID
From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and HawkWatch, Raptor ID will help you identify all the osprey, hawks, and all of the raptors that frequent the Chesapeake Bay area (and beyond). That plus stunning pictures, detailed diagrams of birds, well narrated short videos, and vocalization clips make this a great companion for your next trip outdoors.


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Audubon Society App
The free app from the birding pros at the Audubon Society boasts a full field guide to over 800 species of birds found in North America. The guide encourages you to take pictures and enter as much information about the birds you see, like tail size and shape, beak size and shape, and behavior. The app also lets you post your photos to the Photo Feed so other Audubon Bird Guide users can see your best bird shots.

Here are some more tips on observing birds from the Maryland Ornithological Society on identifying birds. They suggest before you immediately try to identify a bird you see, take some steps to observe it in its habitat and watch its behaviors.


Backyard Bird ID Tips
From the Maryland Ornithological Sociey 

Song and Call Notes—Particularly during spring, song is often the best way to identify a bird. The bird may be hidden from view, but it can be heard. with practice you can learn many common bird songs.

Beak—A bird’s beak determines what it eats. A warbler and finch are both small birds, but are easily told apart by bill. The finch has a heavy bill for crushing seeds, and a warbler has a fine bill for capturing insects.

Habitat—Once you learn what birds are found in a particular habitat, identification becomes much easier.

Size—Is the bird smaller, the same size, or larger than a robin? Relative size helps narrow the identification down.

Head Markings—Look for eye strips, rings around the eye, or crown stripes.

Tail Markings—Tail bands/markings are key in identifying some raptors and others such as the Eastern Kingbird and American Redstart.

Wing Bars—A number of birds have bars on the wings.

Flight Pattern—Does the bird fly straight like a dove or does it undulate up and down like a woodpecker or finch?

Wing Shape and Tail Length—These are critical in differentiating birds of prey.

Behavior—Does it climb up a tree like a woodpecker or down like a nuthatch? Does it feed on the ground? Does it fly out from a perch and back again like a flycatcher? Does it bob its tail?

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