Merlin Bird ID, Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology’s app to help you identify birds in your area, has just landed in Central America! After the United States and Canada, then Mexico, the award-winning app has just released new bird packs for Belize and Guatemala, putting all the birds one can expect to see there—including resident species—at one’s fingertips.
Imagine you are in Guatemala, and you see a bird you don’t immediately recognize. With five simple questions about where and when you observed the bird, what size and color it was, and what it was doing, Merlin will give you a list of most likely species. This list not only considers the answers you provide, but also the likelihood of the species at your location, based on millions of observations from eBird. This is not guess-work—far from it! Merlin goes about identifying birds in the same way as most birders do, considering not only what the bird looks like, but also what it is doing, and how likely it is at that location and point in time. It’s like having an expert birder with you in the field wherever you go.
Merlin also comes with a cool new feature, Photo ID. If you have a photo of the bird you want to identify, Merlin can analyze it and give you what it thinks is the best match. You can take a photo through your binoculars, from the back of your larger camera, or snap a photo from your computer screen, and Merlin will give you an answer. This feature is possible thanks to the millions of images stored in the Macaulay Library, including many photos submitted by eBirders like you.
In addition to searching for a specific bird, you can flip through the digital field guide for your region. You can sort the birds in taxonomic order, just like most paper field guides, or in alphabetical order, if that works better for you. You can even sort the species by “most likely” for your location, according to sightings submitted to eBird. This last feature is especially useful for beginning birders who want to familiarize themselves with the common birds in their area first, before getting to the rarer species. Each bird pack includes high quality photos contributed by birders like you, representative songs and calls from the Macaulay Library, and excellent identification texts written by Steve N. G. Howell and Luke Seitz. Of course, the app is available in English and Spanish, and is completely free.
You can download Merlin in the App Store (iOS) or Play Store (Android). After downloading the app, figure out which bird packs you want. If you download the Belize pack, you will get all birds reported from Belize, including the winter visitors from North America, and including the rarer species in Belize. You’ll have access to all content—photos, texts and sounds—even when you’re offline. This means that after downloading the content, you don’t need internet or cell phone reception to be able to use Merlin as a field guide.
We hope that birders in Guatemala and Belize will take Merlin out for a spin on Global Big Day. We’ll continue to roll out Merlin to all Central American countries. Expect to see Merlin Honduras and Merlin El Salvador soon. Stay tuned…