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Identify Birds by their Calls - Yes you can

One of the things I truly enjoy about Waitsburg is that because of our oasis of trees and water in a normally dry environment, we are provided with a litany of bird songs at any time of day. For example, when I sit on my front porch on a weekend morning drinking my coffee, I can hear up to 20 different types of birds calling to each other. Sitting on my back porch at dusk, I hear the evening songs as the birds go to bed. And when I let the dog out one last time for the evening, I regularly hear male and female owls calling back and forth to each other across town.

While I find it easy to identify species like American Robins, California Quail, and Ring-Necked Pheasants by their call, there are many birds that I struggle with in the cacophony of tweets and twitters (much like human's online social media). It amazes, and frankly baffles me, that some avian biologists can identify hundreds of birds by their call alone. I know this is something I may never be able to do, however, Cornell University has put out an app to do just that.

The "Merlin Bird ID" is free on the Google Play or Apple's App Store. After downloading the app, users can set the map to their location, (I used the Northwestern United States.) Now the phone is initiated to listen for bird calls and identify the species of birds it "hears."

I was pleasantly surprised when my phone listened for ten minutes on my front porch and recorded 18 species of birds. While I cannot be sure that every bird it detected was identified accurately, it did seem as though it is really good. Many of the birds identified were very common to this area, while other birds I had not heard of or did not know were here.

The birds I hear during June from my house include the American Robin, House Finch, Eurasian Collared Dove, House Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, California Quail, Ring Necked Pheasant, Black Chinned Hummingbird, European Starling, and the wild turkey. Less common birds the app has identified included the Cedar Waxwing, House Wren, Warbling Vireo, the Chipping Sparrow, and Black-headed Grosbeak.

Birds reported that leave me questioning the app's 100% veracity include the brightly colored Yellow Warbler, Vaux's Swift, and the White Breasted Nuthatch. I would also like to know what type of owl I was hearing at night in town and determined that it was indeed the Great Horned Owl.

The app also allows users to click on the identified bird's picture for more information, and save it to a list if users are so inclined. One can also act as an amateur naturalist and keep track of those birds for their research. A recent post on reported that that the app's users and everyday citizens helped Cornell University determine the number of Bald Eagles in the lower United States was more than double what it originally thought. Not bad results for amateur birders.If you have a curiosity about the types of birds you are hearing and want to do a little research, this app is a fun way to identify birds by their calls. So, wonder no more.


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