Introduction to The Audubon App
The birding world is expanding thanks to an array of apps and tools that cater to both seasoned enthusiasts and newcomers, but a name that has been associated with birding for over 100 years is Audubon.
Overview of Audubon
Developed by the Audubon Society, the Audubon app is a digital tool, enhancing the birdwatching experience of enthusiasts of all levels. The Audubon app is certainly worth considering as this is expansive guide to birding in North America. Audubon is free to use, and offers users and complete field guide to over 800 species of North American birds. Keep reading for a swan-dive in to the app’s features, an overview of the interface and design and suggest some alternatives, like Birda.
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User Interface and Design
The Audubon app boasts a classic and understated user interface. When you first open the app, you are greeted with a beautiful illustration of a Great White Egret before the home page loads. Each time you open the app, you’re greeted with a new species to learn about, followed by articles you can peruse at your leisure.
The app is relatively easy to navigate. The design feels simple but easy on the eye and certainly feels more like a digital field guide than a fun and engaging mobile app. In this respect, it may appeal to those seeking a digital interactive guide, but for those after a vibrant app that adds gamified or social element to birdwatching, Birda might suit your needs.
Data Visualization and Achievements/App Integration
Audubon displays your data and achievements in a pleasant way. On the home screen, you can easily see how many sightings you’ve made, how many species of birds you’ve seen and what alerts you have set. Once you add a sighting, the app congratulates you on your bird and gives options to add more. Heading to the My Audubon tab shows your data, and the information housed here gives you an insight to your birding on the Audubon app.
Logging Sightings through Audubon
To add a sighting on the Audubon app, follow these steps:
- Starting on your main home screen, tap the “Add a Sighting” button on the bottom of the screen.
- Enter the details of your sighting:
- Species: If you know what the species is, you can use the search bar to find it. Alternatively, browse the field guide to find the bird you are logging a sighting of.
- Date and Time: Select the date and approximate time you saw the bird.
- Location: You can allow the app to use your current location, or manually enter a specific location name.
- Number of Individuals: Indicate how many of the birds you saw.
- Field Notes: Under each species, there is an optional text box to add additional details like notes, behaviours observed, or photos. For example, you could add “winter plumage”.
- Review your sighting and tap “Submit.”
Once you’ve saved your sightings, these will boost your totals on your home page and be added to your very own “life list”. To review your sightings again, you can click through on the totals to see your personalised list of sightings.
One thing to note is that logging birds on Audubon might leave you feeling like you don’t have much control over who can see your sighting. Using the Explore More Sightings feature will let you see other sightings from nearby and your own sightings may be found here too.
Using the “Explore” tab, users can see birding hotspots, nearby sightings and a photo feed of user images. The Hotspot data is provided by eBird, a global online database of bird observations. This feature is super useful whether you’re looking for new spots nearby or while travelling to a new area.
Both the Birda app and Audubon offer this feature, but Birda offers a simple but effective additional feature: it compares your life list with species spotted at the location and tells you how many species “new to you” have been spotted in this area. If you’re seeking to tick birds of your life list, Audubon does offer another unique feature though: if there’s a species in particular you’re desperate to see, set up an alert, and the app will notify you when birds on your list are spotted nearby.
When you first download Audubon, you are prompted with an option to download the complete field guide data to use offline. If you do this, you can view photos, descriptions, range maps, habitat preferences, and behaviour notes of thousands of species even when not connected to the internet. There are some basic ID tools available offline, but these are limited compared with the online offering. You can also log new sightings, and view past sightings when using the Audubon app offline.
Conservation Research and Data Collection
Not only does the Audubon app draw on the eBird database to inform its map feature, it also contributes to the database itself by submitting sighting information. This data informs researchers about bird distribution, abundance, and population trends, guiding conservation efforts. The app also signposts users to their “action centre”, a hub of articles, petitions and guides to support bird lovers to do their bit for conservation.
Room to Improve
The Audubon app is a fantastic tool for birders, though there’s alwasy room for a little bit of improvement. The app does feel a little clunky and as this is a US app, using the app elsewhere in the world is less useful as it will still show you birds found in the US when adding a sighting.
While Audubon is functional as an app for logging bird sightings, it lacks that element of challenge and fun that adds so much appeal to the Birda app. Audubon is also lacking a “session” feature, to allow the user to record all their sightings throughout your outing, making it slightly more clunky to log multiple sightings in the field.
There are a few notes about the design too, some of the colors used for fonts are quite faint and difficult to see in certain lights, though the general overall feel of the app is one of simple and easy birding. Audubon has a huge history as being one of America’s longest running bird organisations, though there is little information on the many chapters across the US that can be found in Audubon’s name. Perhaps a feature advertising your nearest chapter might be greatly appreciated by those who seek birding friends.
Alternatives to Audubon
There are some fantastic birdwatching apps out there and each tend to have features which put them into different categories of birding apps. Audubon is fantastic for learning as you immediately open the app as each time you do, a new bird will appear. Other popular apps for ID are Merlin Bird ID, and for those more science-minded, eBird may be the best for you. But for those looking for an app which puts the fun back into birdwatching with competitive challenges, badges to unlock and a whole community of birders from across the world, the Birda app is certainly worth considering.
Summary of Birda vs Audubon
Ultimately, the ideal app for you depends on your birding style and goals. The Audubon app is certainly a strong contender, and offers a powerful tool for the pocket of any birder. In particular, it’s smart identification feature, comprehensive field guide, and strong focus on conservation make it a worthy choice for both beginners and seasoned birdwatchers.
However, for those seeking a more dynamic and community-driven experience, Birda offers a compelling alternative. With a vibrant interface, innovative birding session feature, and gamified approach to identification the Birda app gives a fresh perspective for engaged bird enthusiasts.