eBird site showing explore species

Nature Identification Apps – by Jill from the North Woods

Hi! This is Jill from the north woods. As I mentioned before, I love hiking and my best friend loves bird watching. We realized these are the same hobbies as long as you bring binoculars and the right apps. Plus if I ever got tired from my fast-walking friend, I can say “Wait I saw a bird!”. When we first started, we didn’t know where to go to find birds and animals. We didn’t know what we saw once we did find something. But gathering the right sites and the apps, we became successful. If you are wondering, I see 100 species a year near my home

eBird Website and Apps

Cornell Lab of Ornithology a website for science and ecology. It’s a fantastic organization with the conservation of birds and habitats in mind. But they also help the hobbyist and amateur naturalists. You can buy and view webinars and learn a lot of information about birds. It allows users to create lists of birds they see and track them over the years. My friend has been doing this for over a decade. They use these lists track bird populations, rare bird siting and migration. But they also help the birdwatchers in so many ways.

EBird Map
EBird Map

From their website in the Explore Birds option you can look at maps of where birds are located and learn more about the birds. I use their site to find specific birds I have always wanted to see. I find out where other people have seen this bird and then drive to that location to see if I can find the bird too. I was able to find a Snowy Owl a few years ago, even though it was a few days after the report. There he was sitting on the pole just like the person who saw them said it was there. That was pretty neat. I also use the maps to find locations with a lot of birds and I plan visits and vacations there.

They do have apps of their own. The eBird app is for creating those lists. The reviews are not very high but I did notice there seem to be a lot of confusion on how to use the new version and the developer is trying hard to tell them how it works. They have another app called Merlin ID. It is not my favorite app in the world but other people seem to like it quite a bit. You can find out more information at their website ebird.org. ebird.org/explore is where you will find out the maps and bird details. This is where I spend my time looking for birds and locations. The other fantastic thing is that they have an API which allows third-party apps to connect to their database.

Birds Near Me App


Birds Near Me is an app that uses that API so people can find which birds are near their location. It uses that same eBird data but filters it in a better way. You can filter it by days so you can see what people saw within the last few days or last month. You can also filter location (distance) so you can see if they saw it close to you or a few miles from you. It is really a great way to learn what birds you are seeing when you are not really sure. Every once in a while you do see something that is rare or something other people haven’t seen. But for the most part, you are seeing the same birds other people, who may have more experience than you have, are also seeing.

I used this app in Los Angeles when I was only seeing crows but at one point a tiny, black bird came near me. When I used the app, I found out that at that location, people only ever saw two birds; crows and black phoebes. It was a new bird for me! I was excited to see it. I also used when traveling the world to help me identify new birds that I have never seen before. It’s probably the best app I use for identifying birds. I recommend it to everyone I see on the trails when they look confused. Find out a few details here birdsnearme.com/ but you can find out more information on the App Store. The app is free and only on IOS.

iBird Apps


The next app I use is iBird Ultimate. They have several price points which have different features for this app. Ultimate version has all the features and costs $19.99. You can find more information ibird.com/. It is available on IOS and Android. This app will help you identify birds and teach you about their environment, habitats, behaviors and show you pictures and other types of information like the songs. What I do is try to see something really identifiable like a color streak or size or the style of flying the bird is doing. This app can help me find what I have using these key features.

Sometimes it’s pretty difficult because birds very fly fast and they get lost in the leaves. The pictures and characteristics really help me. My friend is great at hearing songs. She is able to use the app to match songs. Between the two of us we doing a great job! There are a few other apps like the Birds of NA (North America) from Peterson and Sibley V2. They are both good and a lot of details too. But I prefer iBird because it is downloaded to your phone and you do not need to have a data connection. If you are out someplace where the internet is not great which sometimes happens when you are out hiking, you can still find the information.

Larkwire Website and Apps

Larkwire is an app to help you learn songs from birds. It helps with the phrases and sounds of the songs. Memorizing birdsongs is a really great skill. My friend can walk through a park and hear dozens of birds before we can see them. I am horrible at this and I can’t learn the songs but that isn’t the apps fault. There are two prices for the two apps. $14.99 for the land birds and $12.99 for the water birds. Larkwire is available for IOS or a website so you can use it at home. Find out more at www.larkwire.com/…

iNaturalist Website and Apps

Sometimes you find a flower or a critter you are not what sure what it is. For those items, there is the iNaturalist website and app is really fantastic. It really isn’t just an app. It is a community and run by California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. It allows you to upload pictures of whatever it is that you have seen and people crowdsource the identification. Once people pick what they think it is, the site confirms the identity. You can submit mammals, bug, flowers and pretty much anything natural and living.

You can also look at what other people record. They also work with groups like the Urban Canid organization that tracks foxes and coyotes inside cities. The responses are quick and accurate. I have done trees and weeds and flowers and mushrooms. I like to see what my neighbors find too. You can use it in the same way people use the eBirds site. You can reverse engineer it and say I have always wanted to see this flower and go find that flower.

They have another app called Seek that does not store location and but it is also there for identifying and helping you find other kinds of natural things you want to see. It is meant more for kids. These are available on IOS or Android or their website and are free. Find out more at their site www.inaturalist.org/.

iNaturalist Listing
iNaturalist Focussed One Plant
iNaturalist Map View

Thanks again for letting me talk. I hope everyone is getting outside and see nature again and enjoy the beautiful weather of Spring.

1 thought on “Nature Identification Apps – by Jill from the North Woods

  1. Colleen Hudson - June 25, 2020

    This is an AMAZING list of tools to help us amateur nature enthusiasts figure out what we’re seeing (and hearing!) while we explore. Thank you SO much for taking the time to put together such an informative, comprehensive, and well-presented list. I’m sure I will be referring to it often in the future!

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