Must-Have Apps for Better Birdwatching

Birding apps transform bird identification and learning. Carry an entire avian reference library in your pocket with diverse field guide apps.

Birding apps transform bird identification and learning. Carry an entire avian reference library in your pocket with diverse field guide apps.

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It's time to level up your birdwatching game. While nothing quite beats peering through your binoculars on a quiet morning and hearing the sweet song of a new feathered friend, technology can enhance the experience. With a few taps on your phone, you have a wealth of knowledge and tools to identify that flash of red in the treetops or log your sightings to contribute to citizen science. Birding apps put a field guide, range maps, and a personal journal in your pocket.

Birding Apps for Identification and Discovery

Birding apps have revolutionized how we identify and learn about birds. With a huge selection of field guide apps available, you'll have an entire avian reference library right in your pocket.

Merlin Bird ID is a top choice for beginners. Its simple interface and photo recognition technology make identifying birds a snap. Just snap a photo of the mystery bird and Merlin will suggest possible matches to choose from. Once identified, you'll get info on the bird's range, habitat, and sounds.

For serious birders, iBird Pro contains illustrations, photos, and audio for over 10,000 species. Create your own lifelists and keep records of all your sightings. The app links with eBird so you can easily report observations and contribute to this global citizen science project.

Another reputable option is the Audubon Bird Guide. In addition to the expected identification features, the app provides important info on bird conservation and how you can take action to protect vulnerable species. Your use of the app also directly supports the National Audubon Society and its conservation work.

While technology is a useful tool for birding, don't forget to look up from your screen! Apps should enhance your experience in nature, not replace it. Pay attention to bird behavior, listen for songs and calls, notice little details in feathers and markings. Put the tech away at times and just sit quietly to fully immerse yourself in the sounds and sensations of the natural world around you.

With some guidance, birding apps and tools can open up a whole new world of avian discovery and deepen your connection to the birds in your area. Just remember to use them responsibly and keep your eyes on the birds!

eBird and iNaturalist: Logging and Sharing Your Sightings

eBird and iNaturalist are two of the most popular apps for logging your bird sightings and sharing them with fellow birders. ###

By recording your observations on eBird, you're contributing to one of the world's largest citizen science databases. Your sightings provide scientists with valuable data on bird populations and behaviors. The app makes it easy to log details like the location, date, and time of your sighting, as well as the birds you saw. You can even add photos to help identify tricky species.

iNaturalist takes a social approach, allowing you to connect with naturalists of all kinds. You can post your bird photos and get help confirming the species. Other naturalists may add your sighting to community projects focused on specific locations or types of birds. Your observations become part of a global database used for scientific research on biodiversity and conservation.

Using these types of nature apps responsibly means avoiding disturbance of birds or their habitat. Don't get too close when trying to get that perfect photo for your log or community project. But when used properly, eBird, iNaturalist, and other birding apps and tools can enrich your experience in nature by helping you identify new species, track your progress, give back to science, and connect with fellow birders.

Logging your sightings and sharing them with the birding community allows you to contribute to avian conservation and science. You'll also gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity of birds in your area by learning to identify new species and understanding their natural histories. Using technology and direct experience together, you can become a better birder while still enjoying and respecting nature.

Top Birding Apps for 2023

The world of birding apps and tools has exploded in recent years, giving hobbyists an array of resources at their fingertips. As an avid birder, having the right apps on your phone or tablet can enhance your time in the field and expand your knowledge. Here are some of the top birding apps to have for 2023:

Merlin Bird ID

This crowd-sourced app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses image recognition to help identify birds. Snap a photo of an unknown bird, and Merlin will suggest possible matches. With a huge database of bird sounds, photos, and facts, it’s a must-have for any birder.


Managed by the Cornell Lab, eBird allows birders to record and share their observations for use in scientific research and conservation. You can keep track of your personal bird lists, explore hotspots, and contribute to this global database which contains millions of bird sightings each year. eBird is available as an app or on their website.

Audubon Bird Guide

From the National Audubon Society, this comprehensive field guide covers over 800 species of birds in the U.S. and Canada. It includes high-quality photos, video, audio, and in-depth information to help you identify birds in the field. You can also use it to track birds you’ve seen and keep a personal birding log. Supporting conservation, a portion of the proceeds from the app go toward Audubon’s efforts.

iBird Pro

This popular field guide app features photos, illustrations, and detailed facts for over 1,000 species of birds. iBird Pro includes bird calls and songs for many species, helpful identification tips, and tools for recording your sightings. With both casual and advanced birding features, it appeals to birders of all levels. Regular updates ensure the content remains current.

Using technology in balance with direct experience in nature will enhance your birding adventures. Contributing your observations to citizen science databases and connecting with others in the birding community online helps to strengthen knowledge and support for conservation. With the right resources at hand, you'll become an expert birder in no time.

Binoculars, Spotting Scopes, and Other Birdwatching Gear

To get the most out of your birdwatching experience, investing in quality optics and other gear is essential. A good pair of binoculars and spotting scope can take your birding to the next level by allowing you to see birds clearly at greater distances and in more detail.


For most birders, a solid yet affordable pair of binoculars is a must. Look for binoculars that are specifically designed for birding or nature viewing, as they provide the magnification and clarity needed for observing wildlife. Models like the Nikon Monarch or Vortex Diamondback are highly rated, providing 8x to 10x magnification, meaning the subject appears 8 to 10 times closer. For the best image, choose binoculars with anti-glare coating and ED or HD glass.

Spotting Scopes

For viewing birds at long ranges, a spotting scope is ideal. Spotting scopes typically provide higher magnification than regular binoculars, up to 60x or more. However, higher magnification also means a narrower field of view and more difficult handling. A scope with an angled eyepiece is generally easier to use for extended periods. Consider an affordable yet high-quality brand like Celestron or Vanguard, which offer scopes suitable for most birders.

Field Guides

Whether in print or digital form, a field guide is an indispensable tool for identifying the birds in your area. Look for a guide that covers the region you bird in, with full-color images and descriptions of birds in all plumages. Popular guides include National Geographic, Audubon, and Sibley. Many field guides are also available as apps, like the Audubon Bird Guide or iBird Pro.

Other Useful Gear

Additional useful gear includes a birding journal or notebook to record your observations, a camera or smartphone adapter for your spotting scope, camping chairs, and weather-appropriate clothing. Some birders use audio gear like parabolic microphones to detect bird sounds. With the right equipment and know-how, your birding experiences can be greatly enriched. The key is finding gear that suits your needs and skill level.

Responsible Birdwatching With Technology

Using technology in birdwatching comes with an important responsibility—to respect nature and the birds. As handy as birding apps and tools are, it's easy to get carried away and disturb wildlife or damage habitat in our enthusiasm.

Give Birds Their Space

When observing birds in the field, be careful not to get too close or do anything to disrupt their natural behavior. Stay on marked trails and viewpoints, keep noise to a minimum, and avoid sudden movements or loud noises that might startle the birds. If a bird shows signs of distress like agitated calls or fleeing, you're too close. Back away to give the bird more space.

Limit Disturbance

Try to limit any disturbance to birds or their environment. Don't damage plants, nests or natural features around you. If a bird seems agitated by your presence at a nesting site, breeding ground or feeding area, move on quickly. It's always better to be safe than risk disturbing wildlife.

Share Responsibly

When sharing your experiences on social media or with fellow birders, be careful not to reveal locations of nesting sites, breeding grounds or other sensitive bird habitats. Keep locations and details vague if there are any concerns about increased traffic or disturbance in the area. The wellbeing of the birds should be the top priority.

Balance Technology and Nature

As useful as birding technology is, don’t let it distract you from experiencing nature firsthand. Put away the devices from time to time, be fully present in the moment, and observe the birds and environment around you with your own eyes. Listen for bird calls, notice small details, and make personal connections to the wildlife you’re viewing. Achieving this balance will make you a better and more responsible birder.

Using technology responsibly and maintaining a balance between devices and nature will ensure you have the most rewarding and ethical birdwatching experiences possible. Respecting wildlife and habitats should always come before getting the perfect photo or video. With care and moderation, technology can enhance your birding adventures without disrupting the birds you set out to observe.


As you can see, there are many useful apps and tools out there to help make your birdwatching experiences even more engaging and productive. With the right resources, you'll be identifying birds in no time and keeping detailed records of all your sightings to share with other birding enthusiasts. However, don't forget to look up from your screen every once in a while - watching these feathered creatures in their natural habitat is a joy technology can't replace. So get out there, learn to appreciate the simple beauty of nature, and happy birding! With the help of technology, you'll be well on your way to becoming an expert birder.


Published on Dec 28, 2023