Merlin Bird ID Gets New Photos and Audio for Birds in the US and Canada

By Team Macaulay Library March 2, 2021

Merlin Bird ID, the premier bird identification app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, launched in 2014 with 285 species in the United States and Canada. Since then, Merlin has grown leaps and bounds. Now Merlin helps users identify more than 7,500 species of birds around the world and is jam packed with hundreds of thousands of photos and recordings of bird sounds.

Thanks to eBirders around the globe, who add photos and audio recordings to their eBird checklists that are then archived in the Macaulay Library, Merlin has been able to draw from millions of photos and recordings to capture physical and auditory details to help with bird identification.

Since the US and Canada packs were first released, the media collection in Macaulay Library has grown tremendously. Now there are more than 25 million additional photos and nearly 1 million audio recordings that Merlin can draw upon to feature in the bird packs. Thanks to the eBird community our task morphed from “having a hard finding the right image” to “struggling to sort through all the good options.” A solidly good problem to have! With so many great photos and recordings coming into the Macaulay Library, one thing was clear—it’s time to update the US and Canada bird packs.

In December 2020, the Macaulay Library released a fully revised and updated audio guide for US and Canada, which is available for download as The Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: United States and Canada (MP3; $20). This release included nearly 5,000 audio files covering the birds of the US and Canada that will now be a part of Merlin. The expertly curated audio includes more call types, alternate songs, and regional variation than ever before—that’s 3,743 new recordings covering 604 species. The new release also features audio from 472 recordists.

The curated photo set found in Merlin (as well as Birds of the World and eBird Explore) was also extensively updated with new and higher resolution images from the Macaulay Library, adding in more examples of regional variation, juveniles, and photos showing the birds in typical habitats. Over 3,000 new photos were added for 625 species in the US and Canada packs, pushing the pack over 5,600 photos from 1,827 photographers.

An example of this new expanded set is the White-headed Woodpecker, which is now represented with stunning images of males and females, and examples of habitats where you might see the species.

In addition to updated audio and photos, identification text for most species has been updated to help you key in on important features to help with ID.

Get the new photos, recordings, and updated ID text by tapping on the menu bar in Merlin and then tapping bird packs. Have fun exploring all of the great new content!