The iPad is a transformative device for birders. Along with the iPhone, the iPad is as indispensable to many bird watchers as binoculars or a life list, but, more importantly, iOS devices help make birdwatching more accessible by simplifying how we track and share birding information.
As spring migration approaches, there is no better time to download an iPad birding app and learn to pay attention to the world around you. Whether an iPad owner enjoys casually watching birds in her yard or takes to the field to track down short term visitors, there are a range of well-designed apps that make the process simpler and enjoyable.
Beginner. Not sure if you know an American Robin from a Northern Cardinal? Peterson’s Feeder Birds of North America is a great way to start learning the names of frequent backyard visitors. This universal app is a mobile guidebook that includes Roger Tory Peterson illustrations, range maps, bird songs, checklists, sightings, search, QuickFind index, free lists showing every bird recorded for counties across the US and Canada. Best of all, the app is free to download.
Intermediate. Graduate from Peterson’s Feeder Birds to the more exhaustive Peterson’s Birds of North America, which includes illustrations, birds songs, range maps, and nest photos for over 800 species of North American birds. If you prefer photos of birds, download Audubon Birds and Butterflies by Green Mountain Digital, which I reviewed last August. There’s also an app that is only for birds, but I found I enjoyed tracking and identifying butterflies as much as I did the birds, so it’s well-worth the extra $2.00 for this capability. Audubon’s app allows the user to generate a list of birds one is likely to see given her location and month of the year. I used it on vacation in Vermont to count Cedar Waxwings, and I used it all summer long at home to track when the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird arrived and then departed for Costa Rica. It’s easy to share bird observations to Facebook or by email.
Advanced. Now that you’re hooked on birding, and maybe even a citizen scientist who participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count or Project Feederwatch, it’s time to start submitting observations to eBird on a regular basis. Download BirdsEye HD, and submit observations directly from your iPad to eBird. Developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird allows users to share birding observations from anywhere by submitting a checklist to the organization’s website. BirdsEye HD simplifies this process, since it’s no longer necessary to scrawl birding observations on a piece of paper first then find time to do the data entry. BirdsEye HD also lists “birding hotspots” as determined by eBird submissions. For what it’s worth, Audubon’s Birding apps also uses eBird in this way, but it lacks the ability to submit sightings to eBird. See also, BirdsEye BirdLog for iPhone and iPod touch.
Just for fun. Want to hone your birdsong identification skills? Play one of Larkwire’s birdsong identification games. I reviewed the Backyard Bird edition and found it to be a great educational tool for anyone who wants to get better at recognizing birds by their song. The youngest birdwatchers will enjoy playing My Bird World and My Birds of Prey, both of which were co-produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and developer Five Ravens.
Don’t forget to snap a photo or two of the birds you’ve observed with your iPad’s camera. I took this shot of a this bird’s tracks (Robin? Sparrow?) in the snow this morning. Happy Spring!
Has the iPad transformed how you bird watch? Share the name of your favorite birding app in the comments.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Barrett.Discovery