Sibley Birds 2nd Edition: A Comprehensive App Review

Introduction to The Sibley Birds 2nd Edition App

The world of birding and bird ID is growing rapidly and new apps are popping up all the time; making this hobby accessible and fun to newcomers and veterans alike. One such app is the Sibley Birds 2nd Edition. This fantastic app is an extensive guide for North American birds and can be an invaluable tool for any ornithologist or bird enthusiast. David Sibley, the creator of this app, is a master illustrator and one thing which really sets this app apart is the beauty of the detail in the illustrations you can find in it.

Overview of The Sibley Birds 2nd Edition App

Sibley Birds 2nd Edition app is an online, mobile version of the beautiful Sibley’s Guide to Birds. It features 930 bird species which can be found all over North America, detailing home ranges, maps, calls and songs and more. It’s intuitively designed and has a multitude of information though it does lacks some aspects, like life list creation or a community to share your birding with, like the Birda app. Sibley is a paid app. If you are looking for a free birdwatching app with a great species guide and fun social features, try Birda!

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User Interface and Design

Sibley Birds 2nd Edition is well laid out with easy to understand search features. The illustrations are large, fantastically detailed and well presented, and a search feature allows birders to filter by a number of different criteria like size, shape, colour, location and more. This makes it so much easier to work out if you’re looking at an Ash-throated Flycatcher or a Blue Grosbeak. Because the app is a digital version of Sibley’s ID book, the quality of the information presented is exceptionally high, though it can be a little clunky to navigate at times.

Data Visualization and Achievements/App Integration

This is perhaps the only area in which Sibley Birds 2nd Edition doesn’t excel in. Sibley Birds 2nd Edition doesn’t have a built in feature to track the birds you’ve seen like the Birda app. You can record which birds you’ve seen in the “my list” feature but it won’t record more information like where you saw it, when you saw it or room for any more observation details. You can export this list as a CSV file and import it into other birding apps like eBird, Merlin or Audubon Bird Guide.

Similarly, there’s no competitive or social element to Sibley Birds 2nd Edition. This means no rewards, challenges or community of birders. The information on each species will include things like seasons migrations and when is best to see it but this is generated and updated by the app’s creators, not other birders on the app. On the other hand, a great alternative like the Birda app has success from it’s ability to use information provided by other birders to inform and update users about what’s around them in real time.

Map Features

There are maps within Sibley’s but they are slightly limited; their focus is on displaying species distribution ranges and relevant information rather than real time tracking and recording like its competitors offer. Every species in the app includes a detailed range map which also contains information like breeding sites, wintering locations and distribution. Users can zoom in to navigate these maps but that is the extent of it. It’s possible to filter species by locations and two species locations can be compared side by side. However, the maps are limited by the data which is added to them. Without updates from other users in the app, the maps may feel out of date with current birding.

Woman walking with binoculars birdwatching in a wood

Offline Features

While some aspects of the app do work offline, there isn’t a full offline mode for Sibley Birds 2nd Edition. If desired, species information can be downloaded and accessed offline which is great for birders on the go. It would be possible to download species before visiting a new location. This feature is extra useful because users can download bird songs for each species too. This would be great if one was out in the field and wanted to identify a bird from sound alone. It’s worth remembering though that many of its competitors, including Birda, do offer offline options; including offline tracking where identified species can be logged and will upload fully when an internet connection is restored.

Conservation Research and Data Collection

Because birder data from the Sibley Birds 2nd Edition isn’t recorded, the information from those who use the app can’t be implemented for research or citizen science projects. For many this won’t be a big deal and for those who care massively, as discussed, “life lists” could be exported and sent to any relevant research programmes. This is a popular feature for many other apps because it helps users feel like they’re helping with something larger but, because Sibley Birds 2nd Edition is more for information and reference, it’s not something which is essential but it’s always nice to have.

Room to Improve

While Sibley Birds 2nd Edition is highly regarded and beautifully presented, there is always room for  little improvement. One particular area would be AI integration and sound recognition. It would be fantastic to be able to utilize the powerful catalog of bird calls and link it to sound detection to help ID from song alone. Similarly, being able to use a phone’s camera and image gallery to identify photographed birds with ease. 

Additionally, improving the offline functionality would be great and adding the ability to log locations, timings and more to the life lists. Finally, it would be great to see social features added to the app and allow birders to connect with one another to share things like sightings, photos and species ID suggestions. Sibley Birds 2nd Edition is also a little on the pricey side at $19 for the usage. Of course, users are paying for an extensive lists of species and the beautiful illustrations to go with them, but nowadays, many apps have opted for free versions with paid in-app upgrades to tailor the user’s experience.

Alternatives to Sibley Birds 2nd Edition

There are plenty of birdwatching apps these days and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Sibley Birds 2nd Edition is fantastic for learning all about the species users are seeing but it could go further to connecting birders together and could offer more ways to ID what’s flying around you. Alternatives for this might include Merlin Bird ID app for identification and recording; the Audubon app for using sound and visuals to identify different species; eBird for recording sightings for participation in citizen science projects and more; and, of course, the Birda app for social interactions, bird ID, species mapping and competitions and rewards.

Summary of Birda vs Sibley Birds 2nd Edition

Four Perched Atlantic Puffins on a white rock

The two apps offer some overlapping features but cater to different audiences. While Sibley Birds 2nd Edition focusses on bird ID and detailed identification for birds in North America, Birda is more expansive, offering similar species ID features while incorporating a community aspect to birding. Birda also puts emphasis on users’ photos and sightings to help citizen science projects and offers species identification around the world with an ever-growing species list.

There is certainly scope for both these apps to work well together but we think that, especially given Sibley Birds 2nd Edition expensive initial price-tag, that Birda stands out as an all-in-one global platform, with its growing community, focus on conservation and fun filled features.

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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