Birding enthusiasts young and old will get their use out of this one: Merlin Bird Photo ID is an app and program that will be able to help them identify 400 of the most frequently occurring birds of North America – with just a picture.
Bringing Birding to All
The birding community fully appreciates technology for being able to keep track of their bird watching observations, travails, cliff notes on newly discovered species, audio clips of the sounds they make, etc.
Thanks to considerably detail-oriented researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and California Institute of Technology, the endeavor brings birdwatching to a new level of accessibility. Birdwatching is a hobby with a widely growing community of devout, passionate nature lovers. On encountering the joys of birding, Jonathan Franzen author of the acclaimed novel The Corrections expressed, “I’m making up for lost time and spending the second half of my life as a bird-watcher.”
Birding is a hobby, but it is also very much a learned skill where the power of observation is your most valuable asset. Learning how to really observe is crucial for anyone who wants to improve in being able to identify birds. Richard Crossley describes this extensively in his famous birding identification books, known across the birding community as a first real-life approach to bird identification. He’s been birding since the age of 7.
How Merlin Bird Photo ID Works
Expert and casual birders will seek the Merlin Bird Photo ID app/program for its powerful artificial intelligence technology because of how accessible it is. This is how easily Merlin Bird Photo ID can be a part of your life:
1) The birder will upload photos.
2) The birder will draw a box around the bird in the photograph, then click its eye, beak, and tail.
3) The birder will provide information on the location, date, and time.
4) The app/program will then identify the birds in your photographs.
The identification results will come in the form a list of best matches alongside the photos and the bird’s sound recording.
A Truly Collaborative Birding Project
Currently, the app/program is still in development. It is a collaborative sort of app in which the more users start using the app, the smarter it becomes at identifying different species. Prior to public use, however, countless hours have gone into teaching artificial intelligence about each of the species via thousands of images labeled by expert birdwatchers. As it includes the sightings of 70 million passionate bird watchers (thank you, eBird.org‘s citizen-science project), this is truly a collaborative achievement.
At the moment, Merlin Bird Photo ID works only on computers. It will soon be available for mobile devices as developers upgrade the software. And birding is already such an accessible hobby; one where one only need step outside and open your eyes, ears, and heart!