top of page

Two Favorite Apps

Lately I have been having great fun using two free apps to assist me with plant and bird identification. I have played around with other apps but have settled on two which are reliable. The best news is that the creators don’t come back to you and charge for usage. I have wanted to learn bird identification, including their sounds and songs, and have finally found a great way! For birds, try Merlin App. It was developed by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Merlin Bird ID covers thousands of species and will identify both sounds and photographs. For plant and animal identification, I use Seek by iNaturalist which is a joint initiative from the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic.

Merlin Bird ID app

Once you download and open the app on your cell phone, you are given choices to get Photo ID, Sound ID, or explore birds in your region. For those not technologically oriented (this includes me), this app is easy to use and claims to be 95% accurate. The sound ID listens to the birds, identifies their song, and provides their identity in real time. If a variety of birds are singing, each will show up on a list and the name of the bird will be highlighted as it sings. On a recent hike, the app identified 23 species of birds through their song!

The Merlin app works offline so that if you are far from cell service you can still get a list of possible matches. Recordings using the Sound ID can be exported via text using the share button. Check out the extensive great online guides to birds and birdwatching by going to this website:

Seek by iNaturalist

This app can identify plants, animals, fungi, and reptiles with approximately 95% accuracy. Although it uses data collected by iNaturalist of “species nearby” Seek will not share your information publicly. There are two ways for Seek to identify photographs. If you open the Seek camera and point it at a living plant or animal, the app will let you know the identity before taking the photograph and it will give you direction on how to take the photograph so that the identity is more accurate.

My way of using seek is to take a photograph with my iPhone and, whenever convenient, to pull up the photograph, tap the information button at the bottom, then tap the Seek look up and Bingo the app provides the identity. Seek is primarily focused on the wild outdoors and biodiversity as opposed to zoos, pets or gardens. This app provides plenty of fun ways for children to explore nature. They can earn badges or simply be more involved in the outdoors.


bottom of page