In the past few years, the study of birdsong has witnessed an incredible explosion of interest by both scientists and birders. For scientists, being able to identify species automatically by call with the aid of remote microphones and computers has become a holy grail for expanding human understanding of bird populations, behavior, and conservation. For non-scientists, well, learning and identifying bird sounds marks nothing less than the Great Divide between proficiency and expertise.
For me and many others, the ability to identify birdsong carries an added significance. Shortly after I began birding about six years ago, my hearing took a swift, dramatic plunge, and I lost many of the higher frequencies utilized by songbirds. For a while, as I focused on identifying birds by sight, this loss proved mostly an annoyance. As my visual skills increased, however, I realized with dismay that my hearing handicap threatened to limit my ability to pursue my favorite activity permanently.
With these things in mind, I have focused my review on two groups of apps: those that attempt to automatically identify a birdsong in the field or from a recording, and apps that help you strengthen your skills, especially through quizzing and repetition.
I compared five different apps designed to automatically identify a birdsong either live or from a recording: Song Sleuth, ChirpOMatic USA, Bird Song Id USA, BirdGenie, and Smart Bird ID. It was quickly evident that all face similar challenges. Simpler songs such as an American Robin or the two-note call of a Black-capped Chickadee often, but not always, scored a correct hit, or at least got included in a short list of choices. 2b1af7f3a8