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New Apps Will Identify Birds From Their Calls

BirdGenie-iconIt’s the app we’ve all been waiting for (now that Birdsnap is out): the “Shazam” of bird calls.

Earlier this year, I wrote about a new app called Birdsnap that could identify birds in images that you upload to the app (or website). Although it has some downsides (like the fact that you must get a clear and close-up image), that’s one of the few birding apps people have been clamoring about for years. The other app people have been asking for since smartphones became a thing is a “Shazam” for bird calls.

Shazam, for those who have never heard of the app, can identify essentially any snippet of a song you put into the app. If you don’t know the song you’re listening to but really dig it, the app will let you know exactly what the song is called and who it’s by. Since birders have realized that the technology for audio recognition is there, it’s only natural to want the same type of thing for birds.

Now there are two upcoming apps that aim to implement that technology. The first was announced a few months ago by Princeton University Press called BirdGenie. It does what you might expect. You hold up your phone, press record, and BirdGenie will identify the bird. It sounds almost too good to be true.

The app will come in two different regional versions: East and West. Each will have 60 bird species, which will likely cover most of the common birds you’ll encounter, but there’s always room to add more. Initially, BirdGenie was supposed to come out this past summer, but things have been pretty quiet from BirdGenie. The site currently says Spring 2015, but we’ll keep an eye out for some news.

However, a new app called Warblr (yes, I’m also sick of tech names that drop the e) just popped up the past few days. Two scientists using a grant from Queen Mary University of London developed the app, which works in similar ways as BirdGenie. Since the scientists are based in London, it’s likely only going to consist of European birds. Still it’s a step in the right direction and I’m looking forward to being able to easily identify birds I can’t see. For now, I’ll keep using Larkwire.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.