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Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab

App review by
Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Media
Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab App Poster Image
Bird lovers will sing over info-packed field guide.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can access tons of information about birds and how to identify them. Information is presented as text, photos, and audio recording of bird songs.

Ease of Play

Easy to navigate, use the ID tool, and scroll through info about thousands of different bird species.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab is a free bird guide app for iOS and Android devices. Kids can use this handy tool to identify over 3,500 bird species, depending on the region in which the bird is spotted. A camera feature allows kids to snap a photo, which is then used to identify the bird species based on built-in artificial intelligence. Alternatively, kids can answer a series of questions to help identify the bird. There’s also a huge library of information that kids can access to learn about males, females, juveniles, bird calls, and more. More serious bird watchers can create a free account and access several of Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology projects including eBird, which is a collaborative birding community. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your kids' information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

MERLIN BIRD ID BY CORNELL LAB is both an identification tool and a rich source of information about bird species across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India and Australia. Users begin by downloading one or more regional packs that contain beautiful photos and information about birds found in a specific region. Birds can be identified in two ways. Users can either snap a photo of the bird (or use an existing one) or they can answer a series of five questions about location, date, and traits of the bird. The app then generates a list of a few possible IDs for the bird, with a written description, songs, and photos of males, females, and juveniles. Users can save photos of the IDs on their devices. Users can also create a free account by providing an email address and share the ID data with a number of Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology collaborative projects.

Is it any good?

This extremely comprehensive digital field guide is an engaging way for kids of all ages to immerse themselves in the world of birds. Users can feel confident that the information is quite accurate, given that it was developed by a university ornithology department. It’s nice that birds can be identified using two different methods, especially since capturing a useful bird photo could be challenging. The detailed species information, ID tips, and collaborative sharing options make it a well-rounded resource for serious and not-so-serious birders alike.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the birds that kids observe and which ones they are able to identify using Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab. Which birds live nearby? Why is this their habitat?

  • Talk about planning a bird watching event, either locally or on a planned trip to a new location. Will you look for specific kinds of birds? Where might you find them?

  • Discuss the available sharing options within the app and make sure kids know which options they can use, if any. What are some benefits of collaborating with other bird watchers? What information is OK to share?

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