Merlin Bird ID
An eye in the sky

Developed by the Cornell Ornithology Lab, Merlin Bird ID is a great tool for casual bird lovers who are just dying to know which feathered friend is outside their window right now. Users looking for a bird right away can search for birds based on their shape — sparrow to goose — and then further narrow down the choices by color and location of the bird. Once you find your bird, the app gives you a little write-up and will even show you where it normally lives. The app only covers 350 birds, which Cornell’s ornithology lab says are the most common, so it won’t help you in exotic locales, nor does it record which birds you’ve seen. And the app won’t look for locations offline, so if you’re taking it on a hike, be sure to pre-load your locale.

The app will also let you listen to the songs of birds you see, though bird-watchers say that it’s best not to play birdsongs near actual birds, as it can confuse them. Free, for iOS and Android devices.

Hayley Tsukayama