It doesn’t work on spiders

Mary told me I should mention this app, Merlin Bird ID, in case you don’t already have it. You fire it up, click on a button, and it just listens and tells you what birds it hears. I got it a while back because the crazy early morning bird cacophony was bugging me — at least I ought to know who’s shrieking at me early in the morning. I can sit in my office and have it inform me what all the noise is about. This morning it was black-capped chickadees chattering away, blue jays and redwinged blackbirds making a ruckus, and an American robin fussing about. It’s not as bad as it was earlier this summer, because we also have a Cooper’s hawk hanging about in the neighborhood. When it squeaks, it gets quiet, briefly.

Hey, I’ve noticed fewer squirrels making pests of themselves lately. I wonder if I should play recordings of a Cooper’s hawk when they start climbing the bird feeder and scrabbling at my window. (Before you say squirrels are pretty clever and will just learn to ignore the noise, that’s part of the plan: they’ll become more vulnerable to hawks then.)

If you’re more of a visual person, I’ll also recommend Seek from iNaturalist. Put that on your phone, aim it at any organism, and it’ll use the iNaturalist database to let you know the scientific name of what you’re seeing. It’s very handy. It even works on spiders, unlike the Bird ID program.


  1. Matt G says

    I’ve been using this app for a few months now, and I hate to say it but I’m disappointed. They have these massive packages to download based on your location, and yet it still fails to give me my bird more than half of the time. I even open up the parameters to give it a better chance, and it’s still a no-go. Anyone have better luck with it?

  2. Timothy Hamilton says

    I thought better of you PZ that you were above narrow tribalisms. In spite of your applocentric views, many android users take great delight in your writings & activities.

  3. says

    An app for my phone to identify birds? Nah.
    I spent a few years installing that software directly into my brain. And I’d do it again.

  4. hemidactylus says

    Seek has issues drilling down below family or genus level in my experience for spiders and insects. It does well on some plants.

  5. zygoptera says

    I got the Merlin Bird ID downloaded and went for a walk at a nature preserve this morning. This was so much FUN! The app identified 19 species, most of which I wasn’t familiar.

    Given the decline in birds over the years, I found the walk uplifting to know that more birds are out there than I originally thought. Also it was quite motivating to just get me up and moving. Now I want to learn the various birds and their corresponding sounds.

  6. Scott Simmons says

    Wow, that squirrel thing is kind of dark.
    Rocky: “Uh-oh! That sounds like a hawk! We’d better run and hide!”
    Sandy: “Nah. That’s just mean old man Myers playing his stupid recording again AAAAHHHHHH!”

  7. blf says

    Heh. I’m kind-of intrigued now, and hence am installing the Merlin Dinosaur ID App on my phone as I typos. Probably the first chance I’ll have t try it is tomorrow morning, presuming the usual squawking and screeching and pooping (does it do bird poop?) and tearing from wing-to-leg happens. I presume it will say, in effect, “Penguin (M. deranged)” — and that’s just her, jumping up-and-down on the (typically overturned (me still inside)) bed shouting “wakey wakey!” — rather than the noise outside. The ones outside are probably “Gull (F. rat)”, annoyed there is no-one on the breaches yet they can raid for breakfast and hence trying to roust the hairless apesself-propelled food baskets.

  8. John Harshman says

    No, Cooper’s hawks are after the birds. If you want to scare the squirrels, use a red-tail.

  9. magistramarla says

    I have the SEEK app for my android and I love it. I’ve always had a black thumb and avoided gardening.
    When we bought this house 3 years ago, I was intimidated by the lovely patio and backyard full of plants.
    I downloaded SEEK so that I could identify the plants and learn about their care and feeding.
    Now I’m pretty comfortable with keeping the plants alive and I have a lovely patio and a thriving herb garden.
    I even planted a fairy garden under an oak tree!

  10. zygoptera says

    I’m just starting to use SEEK, particularly for areas I’m trying to keep native.The app is very helpful. I’m also finding and transplanting some small native plants from areas I usually run over with the mower. Free native plants! Yay!