A regal sunbird

Merlin milestone: App now helps ID birds worldwide

The free Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology just hit a major milestone: The digital field guide and ID assistant can now help users identify birds in any country – a grand total of 10,315 species.

Merlin provides detailed descriptions, photos and sounds of each bird, and innovative features to help users identify what they saw.

“The original idea for Merlin was all about helping you figure out, ‘What’s that bird I’m seeing?’ in a quick and simple way,” said Jessie Barry, program manager of the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab. “With this newest update, anyone anywhere in the world can now use Merlin to learn about the birds around them.”

There are more than 3 million active Merlin users right now, more than double the number compared to last year at this time. The app has been installed more than 12 million times.

“The expansion of Merlin Bird ID to cover all the birds of the world is really an amazing accomplishment, thanks to the global birding community,” said Merlin project leader Drew Weber. “They’ve contributed their photos and sounds through the Lab’s eBird observation platform and into our digital archive, the Macaulay Library. The photos and audio recordings help users identify different species in the app and train the Merlin's AI tools, Sound ID and Photo ID.” 

In total, the app contains more than 55,000 photos and 26,000 audio recordings as a reference for users to explore the variation of plumage and sound from each species.

“This milestone achievement is also thanks to our partners who have helped write and translate content in the app,” said Jay McGowan, a multimedia collections specialist in the Macaulay Library. “Bird descriptions are now available in 16 languages, including French, Spanish, Korean and Malayalam.”

The Merlin feature that draws some of the most enthusiastic feedback is Sound ID. With a user’s smartphone microphone, the app can pick up and identify bird sounds in real time, even when multiple species are vocalizing at once. Worldwide coverage for Sound ID is still being developed.

Currently, Merlin Sound ID can help identify 1,054 species, with complete coverage for the United States, Canada and Europe, plus some of the most common and widespread species in Central America, South America and India.

Bird enthusiasts can learn more tips and tricks to make the best use of the Merlin Bird ID app during a free webinar, from 7-8 p.m. EDT on June 6. Attendees will use bird photos and sounds to see who can correctly identify the most species – Merlin or the webinar audience. Register here.

Media Contact

Adam Allington