Cornell has an app for the ornithology-challenged

An image of a Wilson's warbler sitting on a tree branch. A new app from the Cornell lab of ornithology called Merlin Bird ID can help identify birds in the field with only five easy observations.

Today’s column is for those out there who can’t tell a phoenix from a griffin.

Those are birds all right, but they are mythical ones. Nonetheless, there are plenty of birds around — and they may as will be phoenixes or griffins for all the knowledge many people have about them.

And this is where Merlin Bird ID comes in. It’s a tremendously helpful app (available for iOS and android systems). It’s free, produced by the Cornell Lab of ornithology with the goal of improving and protecting birds in nature.

You might see a bird you know little about, but you can make five simple observations and tell Merlin about them. The app will need the location and dates sighted, the size and colors, and the bird’s behavior.

Once entered, Merlin will come up with a list of suspects.

The first two questions — location and date — may seem insignificant, but they are really the most important ones. “It takes years of experience in the field to know what species are expected at a given location and date,” noted the Cornell lab’s website. “Merlin shares this knowledge with you based on more than 800 million sightings submitted to from birders around the world.”


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