Undoubtedly, some of you out there were the lucky recipients of a mobile device from Apple and are wanting to know how to use it as a birding tool. Luckily for you, I have some recommendations on apps from using some of these devices. Compared to 2 years ago when I got my first iPod Touch for Christmas, there are lots of apps. I have listed what I consider the best of the best bird apps in three categories followed by several apps to watch out for.
This is the number one birding app for me, easily the one that I use the most. Harnessing the power of eBird (you do use it right?), you can quickly see what birds have been seen in the area and what’s been seen in the last week. I enter my year list into the app and it tells me which birds not on my list have been reported nearby. You can select a single species and view all the closest reports. I’ve found myself using this app daily to see what birds are being reported nearby by other birders and to keep track of my year list. As a bonus, Kenn Kaufman offers little bits of wisdom for each bird and there are multiple calls and songs for each species. I consider this app a must buy for any serious birder.
Maybe one of the most underrated birding apps out there, I have found this app great for keeping track of my sightings when I am out in the field. As you enter your sightings, the app will record the GPS locations and allow you to visualize and keep track of your various sightings. Also handy is an export function for eBird which produces a file you can upload to eBird. The dream is to be able to submit to eBird directly but this isn’t possible in any app yet. You can read my review for an older version of the app. There have been some big improvements since then but I consider this a great buy and good value for two bucks.
The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America – mydigitalearth.com ($29.99 iTunes link) for iPhone and iPod Touch
If you are a fan of the Sibley Bird Guides, this is the app to get. You get all the information and first-class illustrations of the Sibley guides, plus a good number of songs and calls for each species. Another nice feature is the ability to compare two species. The ability to fit the entire “big Sibley” into my pocket is awesome and I definitely recommend this to any serious birder out there. It does offer a list making feature but it is not very complete.
What can you say about this thats not obvious. With the paper Peterson Field Guide, Roger Tory Peterson revolutionized birding and the app looks like it will hold its own as well. I’ve just downloaded it, haven’t actually used it much, but it looks very promising. I am not a fan of the illustrations as much as Sibley’s but they are still pretty good. The app contains info from all the relevant Peterson Guides including the Warblers of North America, Hawks of North America and Hummingbirds of North America, as well as molt info for each family from the new Molt book. So, you are getting way more than just one book’s worth of information. There is also a pretty usable listing feature allowing you to keep track of multiple life/year/location lists simultaneously. It’s the first version so we can hopefully expect some quick updates to fix any bugs that pop up in the beginning. Props to the developers for offering this as a universal app, meaning you can use this on all your iOS devices with just one purchase! A spectacular app if you are fan of Peterson’s Guides.
Other Apps to Watch
This app looks like it has a lot of potential but I haven’t had time to figure it out yet. It also harnesses eBird sightings to show you what is around but unlike BirdsEye it also allows you to enter sightings. There are some mapping features allowing you to visualize your sightings that look pretty interesting as well. At the price of free (mostly) you should definitely give this one a try.
A very extensive bird app that is exclusively for the iPad. There is also a version for the iPod Touch (additional cost). There are illustrations, photos, sounds, detailed info and more for all the bird species in the US. The illustrations are advertised as Audubon quality, which is true but unfortunately this is not the best for actual bird identification. That being said, the access to lots of professional photos as well as flickr access makes this a valuable app. An extensive search feature also makes this an excellent buy, especially for someone just starting to bird. Until the Peterson Guide, this was the only bird guide app that to take full advantage of the large screen of the iPad. This app has seen a quick update cycle with lots of improvement each time. Definitely watch this app as it matures.