12 of the Best Birdwatching Apps in the USA

In the world of birdwatching, technology has become a game-changer. Whether you’re navigating to serene birding hotspots, identifying birds, or meticulously logging your sightings, there’s an app tailored for every facet of your birding journey. Imagine having a digital field guide at your fingertips or an app that does more than just identify birds. Among these technological marvels, some platforms, like Birda, offer an all-in-one solution to meet every birder’s needs.

If you’re new to birdwatching or a seasoned enthusiast seeking to enhance your experience, look no further. We’ve meticulously reviewed the top birdwatching apps available in the USA and North America, ensuring you spend more time enjoying birds and less time searching for the right app. See the summary table below.

Best Birdwatching Apps in the USA & North America
Features Birda Audubon eBird iNat Merlin Sibley
Community
Field Guide
Log Birds
Find Birds
Photo ID
Bird Calls
Multi Taxonomy
Global
App Store Rating 4.6 4.2 3.8 4.6 4.8 4.9

1. Birda

The best birdwatching app, Birda with screenshots from the Play Store and App Store.

Despite only launching in 2022, Birda has become one of the most popular birdwatching apps on the market. In 2023, Birda was named ‘App of the Day’ by Apple in 148 countries around the world!

Birda is not only a free app with a suite of tools to find, identify and log birds that you see, but it also has a vibrant global community of birdwatchers. It also works as a citizen science platform that provides valuable species sightings data to the global conservation research community.

The Birda birdwatching app has fun additional features, including badges, gamified challenges, automated lift lists, bird identification help, species suggestions and health metrics. Birda is often described as ‘The Strava of Birdwatching’ and, at its very core, is an incredibly friendly community of nature lovers of all experience levels and backgrounds.

If you are looking for a bird identification app to help you identify a bird, this is where the Birda community excels. Simply log a sighting on Birda as unidentified and let the community anonymously suggest a species for you to accept. What’s great about this feature is that people are very good at teaching other people how to identify birds. Getting tips on how to identify and what to look out for facilitates the learning process for new birdwatchers. This community identification aspect really sets Birda apart from other pure AI-based bird identification tools that don’t include any HI (human intelligence) in their species suggestions.

Birda’s Species Guide is deeply integrated into the app, so the process of identifying what you have seen and then logging the sighting (adding it to your checklist) is a completely seamless process! Gone are the days of switching between multiple apps to identify and then record!

Quality and Coverage of Birda’s Field Guide
Field Guide Content Quality Coverage
Species Reference Images Excellent Global
Species Description Excellent Extensive
Bird Sounds Excellent Extensive
Distribution Map Excellent Global
Fun Facts Excellent Extensive
Similar Species Excellent Extensive
Community Photos Excellent Global
Video Coming Soon Coming Soon
Sightings Excellent Global

The content in Birda’s species guide is outstanding. The reference images have almost complete coverage of species in most major regions around the world and cover multiple life stages for most species. The species description copy is excellent and covers topics such as identification tips, habitat, distribution, behaviour, similar species and more. The species guide includes bird calls and songs for thousands of species around the world. The distribution maps have global coverage for each species and are fully vectorised so you can view each species map at any level of zoom. We can confidently say that you will struggle to find an app with better bird distribution maps than Birda! And that’s not it, Birda’s species guide also has great features such as fun facts, community photos and community sightings for each species.

2. Audubon

Screenshots of the Audubon Bird Guide app on the App Store

The Audubon birdwatching app is another commendable birding app and it is built by the National Audubon Society. The Society is a non-profit environmental organisation that is dedicated to helping the conversation of all bird species in North America and their habitats. Founded in 1905, it is one of the oldest conservation organisations in the world.

Audubon app has an integrated field guide, a hotspots feature as well as functionality to log bird sightings and maintain a life list. The hotspot feature works reasonably well and utilises eBird data to populate locations with species sightings data. The ability to log sightings and keep a life list in the Audubon app is however rudimentary and probably a drawback for most users. There are also no community aspects in the Audubon app and no functionality to identify birds by photos or by their calls.
On the other hand the Audubon app’s species guide is pretty comprehensive, although it is limited to North American species. The species guide has photo-based species reference images which have birds in various non-standard positions. This can make it a little difficult to use for some species.
Quality and Coverage of Audubon’s Field Guide
Field Guide ContentQualityCoverage
Species Reference ImagesAverageNorth America
Species DescriptionExcellentNorth America
Bird SoundsExcellentNorth America
Distribution MapAverageNorth America
Fun Facts
Similar SpeciesGoodNorth America
Community Photos
Video
SightingsAverageNorth America
The guide also has good coverage of bird calls for most of the species covered. The species descriptions are comprehensive, well-structured and provide sufficient detail for each bird species. The species distribution are comprehensive and provide details on the breeding, winter, migration and all season distributions. The maps are however image based and not vectorised so you cannot zoom into them at all. The species guide also provides a list of similar species as well as sightings of each species (once again powered by eBird).

3. eBird

Screenshots of the eBird app on the App Store

Another popular logging app is eBird, Developed by Cornell University in the US. The primary purpose of the eBird app is to collect sightings data for research purposes so the app is designed for a more sophisticated user rather than for the broader birdwatching community. While the app is relatively simple it does require some reading before use to understand many nuances that are not directly explained within the app.

The eBird birdwatching app is also completely free for users, and the data collected can then be viewed by researchers, conservationists, and educators to track the movements of birds. All the data inputted into the eBird app is also then passed directly from your phone to your web account, allowing you to track your sightings and hotspots. From there all eBird data is sent to the GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility) where it can be used by the global research community.

A major drawback of the eBird app is the lack of an integrated species guide. Very experienced birdwatchers may be able to get away without a species guide from time to time but for most of us, having a field guide to hand is an essential component to birdwatching. You could install a separate species guide app but that would mean switching between apps which nobody likes doing!

4. iNaturalist

Screenshots of the iNaturalist app on the App Store

When it comes to nature enthusiast apps, iNaturalist is one of the most popular in the world and is part of a joint initiative between the National Geographic Society and California Academy of Sciences. The app is not specifically a birdwatching app so although you can keep track of your bird sightings in iNaturalist, it is not specifically designed for birdwatching.

iNaturalist has steadily built a thriving community over the years, with over 400,000 naturalists and scientists now using the platform. Regularly submitting your sightings using iNaturalist generates tons of data for conservation researchers. As with Birda and eBird, iNaturalist submits is sightings data to the GBIF so that naturalists can support conservation projects by providing scientists and researchers with research quality data.

While the iNaturalist app does have elements of a species guide built into the app, it does not contain sufficient information to pass as a birdwatching field guide. As it stands, the guide is currently limited to user supplied species photos, a short description extract from Wikipedia, as well as links to existing sightings of the species.

Quality and Coverage of iNaturalist’s Field Guide
Field Guide ContentQualityCoverage
Species Reference ImagesAverageGlobal
Species DescriptionAverageGlobal
Bird Sounds
Distribution Map
Fun Facts
Similar Species
Community PhotosAverageGlobal
Video
Sightings

From a species identification perspective, iNaturalists’ most useful feature is its AI photo identification and its community-based identification functionality. iNaturalist’s AI photo identification can accurately identify a wide variety of bird species from around the world. Combine this with their community-based species identification and the combined result is really accurate identification of photo-based community sightings.

5. Merlin Bird ID

Screenshots of the Merlin Bird ID app on the App Store

The Merlin Bird ID app is primarily an identification tool that helps birders to quickly identify the species that they are seeing and hearing. Merlin has been developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a department of Cornell University.

Merlin has three different methods to assist users with bird identification. The first is their Sound ID feature which listens to bird sounds and uses an AI model to predict the species that is calling. The Sound ID feature works very well in Europe and North America however it has limited use in many other regions around the world. The AI model is however constantly evolving so this may change in the future as Cornell get more data to train Merlin’s AI model. From a learning perspective, the only drawback of the Sound ID feature is that it lacks a human element to it. Being explained the nuances of identification by another person is what really helps people learn, not simply being told the answer.

The second feature in Merlin is their Step by Step ID feature that takes you through a series of questions to help you identify what bird you have seen. This process starts with asking you where you saw the bird, when you saw the bird, the size of the bird, the main colours of the bird and what the bird was doing. This feature works as you would expect but it is not something I find particularly useful due to the amount of time it takes to enter in all the required information. Doing this process for more than one or two birds can be exhausting!

The third feature is the Photo ID feature which uses an artificial intelligence model to determine the bird species in an image. All you need to do is select a photo, crop the image so that it only includes the bird you want to identify, add the location and date and then you get a list of suggested species. This feature works very well but as with the Sound ID feature it lacks a human element to it so while it can identify birds, it doesn’t provide users with information as to why it is the species it is. To help people learn, they need help understanding things like features they should be looking out for, what other species are similar, where and when they are likely to see the species.

Quality and Coverage of Merlin Bird ID’s Field Guide
Field Guide Content Quality Coverage
Species Reference Images Average Global
Species Description Poor Global
Bird Sounds Good Global
Distribution Map Good Global
Fun Facts N/A N/A
Similar Species N/A N/A
Community Photos N/A N/A
Video N/A N/A
Sightings N/A N/A

Merlin’s weakest feature is its species guide, which is unfortunately limited to photo-based reference images, a very brief species description, species sounds and an image (rather than vectorised) distribution map. This compounds the learning issue for new birds as the app’s AI accurately tells users what it is they have seen or heard but provides little other information about the species to help the user learn enough to self-identify the species in the future.

Merlin is suitable for birders of all experience levels and is a great way to identify species from photos and from their calls. Although it is a global app, you will need a download pack to get the app to work properly in different regions. These packs can be extremely large so make sure you have lots of free space on your smartphone!

6. Sibley Birds 2nd Edition

Screenshots of the Sibley V2 app on the App Store

Sibley Birds 2nd Edition is a comprehensive birdwatching app and is based on their popular book ‘The Sibley Guide to Birds’. The app is predominantly a field guide; however, it does have rudimentary logging and a life list. If you are interested in keeping a life list, then rather use a more sophisticated life list like that provided by the Birda app.

The species guide in the Sibley V2 app is comprehensive and provides all the information you need to help you identify and learn more about various North American bird species. The reference images are extensive and generally cover all gender and life stage variations of each bird species. The species descriptions are also detailed and include a general description, sounds (call & song description), status and habitat, information on subspecies as well as Spanish and French common names. The distribution maps are also very detailed and are divided into year-round, summer, winter, migration and rare distribution areas.

Quality and Coverage of Sibley’s Field Guide
Field Guide Content Quality Coverage
Species Reference Images Good North America
Species Description Excellent North America
Bird Sounds Good North America
Distribution Map Average North America
Fun Facts
Similar Species Excellent North America
Community Photos
Video
Sightings
Alongside all the species reference images and information, the app also has nearly 3,000 recordings of bird species sounds, as well as seasonal updates. This is great for those who are looking to improve their bird call identification skills.

Other Birdwatching Apps to Consider

1. IGT Pocket

Screenshots of the iGoTerra app on the App Store

The iGoTerra (or IGT) birdwatching app is a fantastic logging solution that provides a range of cloud-based and mobile application services to birdwatching fans. Users can easily keep track of all of the various wildlife they see on their adventures.

Packed with a wide range of tools, users can easily record their observations and import any past records they have created. Uploading photos, American birds list, and more are also quick and straightforward. These can then be shared with their friends or via the friendly competition rankings the app features.

Stand Out Features:

  • Free and premium options
  • Easily add sightings
  • Life lists

2. BirdNET

Screenshots of the BirdNET app on the App Store

The BirdNET birdwatching app utilises artificial intelligence and neural networks to help users identify over 3,000 of the most popular species of birds in the world. The completely free app allows birders to record the birds they have spotted using the microphone on their smartphone, and the app will then search through its database to identify them.

The unique app was developed by experienced birders and is a joint project between the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Chemnitz University of Technology.

Stand Out Features:

  • Free
  • Identity for than 3000 bird species from bird calls
  • Suited to bird ID by calls

3. ChirpOMatic - BirdSong USA

Screenshots of the ChirpOMatic app on the App Store

ChirpOMatic, a notable entrant in the birdsong identification market, offers users a means to identify birdsongs, particularly from the North American region.

The app’s primary function is straightforward. When outdoors, users can tap a red button on ChirpOMatic to record the sound when they come across an unfamiliar bird chirp. The app then cross-references the recording with its database and provides a possible match, including the bird’s photo and a brief description of its call.

Recordings are saved with associated data like date, time, and location, offering users an option to share via platforms like AirDrop, WhatsApp, Messages, or Email.

Stand Out Features:

  • Pricing – $4.99.
  • Frequent updates – the app undergoes periodic updates to maintain functionality with the evolving OS.
  • Privacy assurance – ChirpOMatic doesn’t collect users’ personal data or recordings.
  • Customer support – Users can expect responses to queries within a 48-hour window.
  • Bird-safe mode – unique to ChirpOMatic, this mode ensures that playback doesn’t disturb nesting birds. To hear the sounds, users must hold the phone to their ear.
  • Dark mode at night – the app shifts to a darker screen theme during nighttime hours.

4. Picture Bird

Screenshots of the Picture Bird app on the App Store

Picture Bird is a freemium app tailored for users aiming to identify bird species, either through photographs or sounds. Simply capture or record, and the app provides a potential match.

Stand Out Features:

  • Identification Capabilities – utilising deep learning, Picture Bird claims to differentiate among 10,000+ bird species. When users provide a photo or sound, the app refers to its extensive database to offer a likely match.
  • In-app camera tool – an alternative to carrying dedicated cameras, Picture Bird’s built-in tool allows users to capture birds, offering zoom and clarity adjustments.
  • Bird feeding guidance – the app offers basic feeding suggestions based on selected food and feeder types for those looking to attract birds.
  • Post identification – users can access general details about the bird, such as habitat, appearance, and habits.
  • Collection feature – users can store and manage their bird sightings and create simple bird cards to share.

5. Smart Bird ID

Screenshots of the Smart Bird ID app on the App Store

Smart Bird ID is designed for bird enthusiasts looking to identify species using their device’s camera or microphone. The tool covers over 1000 bird species from the USA and Canada, with an extended list from various global regions.

Stand Out Features:

  • Instant identification – with Smart Bird ID, users can instantly detect birds either through their songs (song ID) or visual characteristics (photo ID).
  • Observation journal – users can store observations and sync them across multiple devices.
  • Community sharing – share your bird findings with others and gain insights about local avian populations.
  • Sound library – familiarise yourself with bird calls and songs, enhancing your understanding of their diverse vocalisations.
  • Skill enhancement – engage in entertaining quizzes to refine your bird identification proficiency.
  • Custom alerts – set up notifications for when particular birds are spotted nearby or in designated areas.

6. GoBird

Screenshots of the GoBird app on the App Store

GoBird is an application geared towards enthusiasts keen on discovering and identifying birds from any location globally.

Stand Out Features:

  • Birdwatching sites – unearth top locations known for vibrant bird watching.
  • Rare sightings reporting – stay informed about rare bird sightings in your vicinity.
  • Species mapping – visualise locations where specific bird species have been observed.
  • High-resolution gallery – access detailed photos of over 10,000 global bird species to aid in identification.
  • Vast sound library – delve into a collection of 150,000 bird calls and songs spanning 8,600+ species.

Conclusion

If you’re interested in birdwatching in the USA, there’s likely an app that fits your needs. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birder, we’ve sifted through numerous options to highlight some of the best birdwatching apps. From comprehensive tools like Birda to specific song identifiers like ChirpOMatic, these apps offer a variety of features for every level of enthusiast. So, make some room on your phone, consider pairing it with a good pair of 8x or 10x binoculars, and enjoy your birdwatching journey.

Want to find out more about Birda?

If you’re considering going birding and want to enjoy the outdoors, download our free Birda app today! The unique community is designed to make birding friendly and accessible to all bird lovers, no matter your experience level. In your garden or further afield, you can share your sightings, identify birds, discover the best birdwatching locations, participate in challenges and connect with birders in your area.

Connect to nature and like-minded people while you discover and explore the birdlife around you! Amplify your birdwatching experience with Birda today. 

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