I collect birding apps. Way too many, in fact. But many of them are indispensable tools in my arsenal. I like to travel light, as much as possible. Sometimes I’ll carry a field guide but you’ll never find me without my iPod Touch and my birding apps. So, here’s a list of the 12 apps I have, in the order of importance and usage:
My Bird Obs – This little app has everything I need to record the birds I see and hear while I’m birding. I can set up bird list templates and load them into view with all bird counts zeroed out. For example, I have 4 Bond Park bird templates: 1) one that lists all the birds I’ve seen at Bond Park, 2) one for winter birds at the park, 3) one for summer birds, and 4) one for birds during migration (fall and spring). Then as I see or hear a bird, I can increment the count for that species by 1, 5, 10, or 100 (the larger increments are nice for flocks of ring-billed gulls, for example). But the most important feature is the ability to upload your bird data to eBird, Cornell’s birding database. They store your data for free and allow you to produce interesting reports about the birds you’ve seen over time. Without this feature, I wouldn’t be using this app.
Sibley Birds – Sibley’s eGuide to the birds of North America is the best field guide app on my iPod. You can tailor the display to birds that appear only in your state. It has a smart search feature if you don’t know what a bird species is, although that’s not the best way to learn new species (going with someone more experienced is). My favorite feature is the ability to compare two bird species side-by-side. That’s useful for birds that look or sound similar to each other. Oh, it also has sound files. You can’t be a birder without learning bird those vocalizations.
iBird South – In the same category as Sibley’s is iBird South. One major difference is that iBird has photos of birds whereas Sibley’s has paintings to better highlight important features of a species to help in your identification. I also like iBird’s ‘Facts’ feature. I always try to learn something interesting about each species. If it’s important to you, you can also upload your own photos to iBird for display.
Birdseye – This one is sort of the opposite of My Bird Obs. Instead of pushing data to eBird, you’re pulling it. So, if I’m interested in what sightings have occurred this week at a specific hot spot, I can find that information with Birdseye. Or, if I’m interested in a specific bird within a geographic region, I can search on that bird. Rare bird sightings are also a feature of this app. If you have an iPhone instead of just an iPod, you get all of this while you’re in the field. That’s useful!
Peterson’s Field Guide to Warblers – The best thing about this app is the quizzing feature. Sometimes in my morning routine, I engage the 10-Question Quizz, select Sounds Only or Assorted (sounds and paintings), and test my ability to identify warblers to species by either sound alone or a combination of sound and sight. It’s incredibly useful but would be more so if you could tailor the app to warblers only within your geographic region. Peterson’s Field Guide apps are also available for Birds of Prey and Backyard Birds and include the quizzing feature.
The rest of my apps are sort of fun, but not what I’d call essential. So, I’m going to just list them:
- Headsup Warblers – Sound files for warblers
- Headsup Sparrows – Same thing for sparrows
- BirdTunes – Sound files for all the birds (includes spectograms)
- iChirp – Also has a quizzing feature, which you can tailor, but doesn’t include many birds.