One day, you may find yourself without a field guide in hand when a mysterious bird finds its way into your field of view. What do you do? In situations like this, or for the book-averse, the answer comes in the form of a nifty iOS/Android app called Merlin.
This clever app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology makes IDing birds quick and easy. All it takes is answering a few simple questions for it to guess what bird you are looking at. Merlin will ask you to confirm the location and date, the size of the bird, its colors, and where you where it was found: on the ground, in water, on a line, in a tree, etc. It will then suggest what it thinks is the bird you’re looking at.
Merlin pulls data from eBird to help narrow down the selection of bird possibilities. The app shows beautiful photos of various seasonal plumages of either gender for each suggestion. Merlin also has audio clips of each bird to help pinpoint the correct species. As a bonus, you get to confirm which bird was the correct one, and it reports this sighting data back to eBird and helps the app get smarter.