A free bird-identification cell phone app is available from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It has ID capabilities for North America, Mexico, Central America, and Western Europe. It has a photo-ID feature.


It’s called Merlin. Download it from the Cornell Web page at



Merlin runs on any iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 8 or newer and 250-400 MB of free space. Download from Cornell or open the App Store from your device, then search for “Merlin Bird ID.”


Merlin runs on Android handheld devices with OS 4 or higher and 250-400 MB of free space on the phone. To download, open Google Play from your device. Then search for “Merlin Bird ID”.


I have four bird-ID apps on my iPhone, all of them purchased. Merlin is far, far better than any of them. 


Merlin can work as a coach for beginning and intermediate birdwatchers. It asks you for information that helps with ID. Tell Merlin date and location of your observation. Add detail on color, size, and behavior. Merlin will give you a short list of possible species.


Click “This is my bird” when you have a positive ID. Merlin saves the information to help improve future performance.


The newest version of Merlin has an amazing Photo ID tool for either Apple or 

Android. Select an image from your smartphone image gallery or snap a shot from the back of your cameras viewfinder. Merlin will help you use two quick steps before showing you a list of possible species. This is a separate download.


Once you have the app installed you are asked to choose from a list of various geographic regions. Choose the Midwest for birds more common here, or choose from several North American regions. 


You also can select several other packages of ID information. Choose Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Mexico Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico Oaxaca and Chiapis, Central Mexico, Gulf of Mexico, Northcentral or Northwest Mexico, the Baja Peninsula, Mexico West, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.


If you have enough memory on your device, get them all. 


This is an a very impressive piece of software, amazing really. And it’s free.


I did a test of the photo app software. I chose a picture of a Blue Jay from my desktop computer file. I brought the image to my desktop. I used my iPhone to take a picture of the picture. Merlin took my location from the phone, also today’s date. Adding that information (region, season) to the photo, and — Presto! It’s a Blue Jay.