Newswise — Ithaca, N.Y.— With the emphasis on staying at home, more and more people are discovering the birds in their backyards—and they want to know the names of those birds. The free Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology was designed to answer the simple question, “What’s that bird?

"Merlin is really focused on helping people easily identify their first bird," said Drew Weber, Merlin project coordinator at the Cornell Lab. "You just answer five simple questions about date and location, plus the bird's size, color, and behavior."

Users can also ask Merlin to identify a bird in a photo. In either case, Merlin lists the likely birds based on what’s been reported in your area at that time. From this list of likely birds, users can review identification text for each species that highlights important markings and behaviors to look for, as well as browse photos, and listen to songs and calls for each bird to find the best match. 

Developed using artificial intelligence techniques using the millions of bird images archived in Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library, Merlin Photo ID has now "learned" to identify thousands of birds from photos whether you are using your phone to photograph a bird in your backyard, or snapping a photo of your TV or computer screen. 

Merlin's wizardry is not only powered by photos in the Macaulay Library but also by the Cornell Lab's eBird database—a citizen science project with millions of observations of birds reported by people all over the world. These observations help Merlin tell you which species to expect around you both near and far.

Merlin isn’t just for learning the birds of your backyard. Merlin now includes over 6,000 birds across the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia. Merlin lets you explore species anywhere in the world and can even act like a personalized field guide—just set the app to a location you are interested in, and Merlin generates a custom list of species for that area. Helpful ID text is also available in several languages making Merlin a versatile field guide for everyone anywhere. Merlin has been downloaded 3.5 million times—and counting. 

Don’t have a smartphone? You can also use Merlin right from your browser. In the upper-right corner of every page in the Cornell Lab’s All About Birds website (, click the Merlin Bird ID button to launch bird identification help for the 650 North American species covered by All About Birds.   

"Being able to put a name to a particular bird is a simple but powerful way to really appreciate birds and nature," says Weber. "Once people get to know their birds, they care about them and want to protect them." The Merlin Bird ID app is available for free for iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded from

More info:

Discover the Birds in Your Yard or Garden

Where To Put Your Bird Feeder

Twitter @MerlinBirdID

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