Merlin bird pack Costa Rica is out!

By eBird Centroamérica noviembre 27, 2017

Earlier this month, during the PIF/SMBC conference in Costa Rica, the Merlin bird pack for Costa Rica was officially released! Merlin now offers coverage of most birds regularly found in Canada, United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Costa Rica. With content well underway for bird packs covering Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama, Merlin will soon cover all the species in North America.

If you haven’t used Merlin Bird ID yet, give it a try. The app is designed for birders of all levels, from the beginner who needs help identifying birds in their backyard, to the more experienced birder looking for an offline resource of high-quality audio and images of the birds in their area (or vacation destination!) in the palm of their hand.

Merlin is available in English and Spanish, and should be equally useful for birders resident in Central America, as well for the ‘winter visitors’ enjoying the warmth of the tropics away from the snow at home. It works offline, so even if you’re visiting a foreign country, using Merlin will not run up any roaming charges.

Merlin has three components: Start Bird ID, Photo ID, and Explore Birds.

Start Bird ID

Geared towards beginning birders, but equally useful for anyone visiting a new area, this feature walks you through a series of five questions to help you identify the bird you just saw:

  1. Where did you see the bird? (default option is your phone’s location)
  2. When did you see the bird? (default date is today)
  3. What size was the bird? (choose from 7 size options ranging from “sparrow-sized or smaller” to “goose-sized or larger”)
  4. What were the main colors? (choose 1 to 3 colors of the 9 options)
  5. What was the bird doing? (choose from 6 behavior options)

After you have answered these quick questions, Merlin will propose a number of species that fit your answers, in order of likelihood. You can select each species to learn more about it, and if the bird you observed is among the species listed, you can tell Merlin “yes, this is my bird!” Note that by doing so, you’re helping Merlin get better.

Photo ID

Let’s say you were able to get a photo of the bird you saw—excellent! Using powerful artificial intelligence algorithms, Merlin can help you identify it. If you photographed the bird with another camera, the first step is getting that photo to your phone. Some cameras support wifi transfer, but you can also snap a photo of the back of your camera’s viewfinder, or your computer screen. Merlin will ask you when and where the picture was taken, and will give a short list of species, with photos and descriptions. Merlin’s ability to identify birds– especially species it already has lots of reference photos of– is amazing! Consider a group as difficult as the Empidonax flycatchers: all birders, no matter how experienced, find this group challenging. Merlin, assisted by algorithms constructed from thousands of images, is remarkably good at identifying them! (By the way, this is where you can help Merlin get even better: by submitting your photos with your eBird checklists, particularly of birds that are not yet as well represented in the Macaulay Library as some of the empids, for example of restricted range tropical species.)

Explore Birds

This is nothing less than a handy, always-within-reach, high-quality field guide to the birds of your region! With sounds! This section includes photos, text, and a distribution map. Great reference tool to carry with you in the field, for birders of all skill levels.

Merlin is available for iOS and Android phones, and will always be free. Download the app from the App Store or Play Store, then download the bird packs for your region (also free). Most bird packs for Central American countries require ~500 MB of available space on your phone, but this means you will have Merlin’s full functionality, including all bird calls, installed on your phone, and available to you at all times, online or offline. Try Merlin today!