The Best Apps for Birding and Field Identification

Birding apps give you access to thousands of species while also helping to actively identify them.
Two handw holding two phones, the two people have binoculars
Photo: Luke Franke/Audubon

Technology has been a part of birding for as long as people have been observing birds, with each new leap revolutionizing the hobby several times over. Opera glasses and notepads, for example, replaced shotguns—the favored technology of early ornithologists—on the first Christmas Bird Counts in the early 1900s. And by the middle of the 20th century, birders were equipped with the first field guides and better, lighter, more affordable binoculars. Fast forward to the early aughts, and birders were heading out with 50 megapixel image-stabilized super-telephoto zoom cameras and precision-honed, multi-coated, ultra-light-weight binoculars. Since then, the glass has only gotten better, and nowadays, though paper field guides still have their place, a slew of smartphone apps have become key tools for most birders. 

Below we've included a rundown of the top birding apps, including each application's price, key features, and the platforms they are available on. Take a look, and consider downloading a few if you're new to birding to understand the differences. As with paper field guides, many birders often use multiple apps for various purposes. Luckily, they aren't nearly as heavy to carry around. 

Finding, Identifying, and Listing Birds 

These apps are the most direct competitors with the classic paper field guides but also include features like photo ID, sound ID, nearby bird alerts, and more. 

Audubon Bird Guide App

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android
Summary: Covers 810 species using photos instead of drawings, includes range maps that also cover Central and South America, has a good selection of audio recordings including alternate calls and regional variations, and slightly more descriptive text including habitat, range, and nesting information. Similar species and browse by family or shape tools are useful for identifying unknown birds, and includes a find birds with eBird function to find nearby reports of specific species.

Sibley Birds 2nd Edition

Price: $19.99
Platforms: iOS and Android
Summary: Covers more than 930 species and features all of the drawings, range maps, and explanatory text found in the Sibley Guide to Birds. It includes more than 2,800 recordings of songs and calls, a compare species function, and a smart search tool that allows you to filter species by color, shape, your current location, behavior, or time of year. You can also build your own searchable, shareable species lists. This app replaces Sibley’s previous eGuide (no longer updating) and requires a new purchase.


Price: Free
Platforms: iOS and Android
Summary: Widely used app that allows you to submit to a community science program that collects bird observations from around the world and shares them with birders and conservationists. You can select your location using GPS, automatically download checklists for your area, and submit checklists directly from the field. 

Merlin Bird ID 

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS and Android
Summary: Amazing app for beginning and intermediate birders that asks you five questions to help identify more than 10,000 birds around the world: Where were you? When did you see it? About how big was it (relative to other birds)? What were the main colors? And what was it doing? Provides photos and descriptions of matching bird species based on this information. The Photo ID feature will also suggest possible species from a photo taken on your smartphone and is surprisingly accurate. In 2021 Merlin launched, arguably, its most exciting feature: Sound ID. Turn it on (it works offline!) when you hear an unknown bird call, and the app suggests real-time species identification, powered by artificial intelligence. While it’s not infallible, and birders should avoid solely relying on the feature for IDs, Sound ID is a great learning tool and a delight to use.

BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide

Price: Free download; subscriptions for North American users are $2.50 a month or $29.99 each year (limited features with free version)
Platforms: iOS and Android
Summary: A great tool for finding new and interesting birds at home or in a new location based on real-time community science data. You can immediately start viewing reports of nearby birds, but the real power comes after you sign into your eBird account and can view nearby birds that are missing from your life or year lists for a specific location. Filters allow you to adjust for the timeframe and distance of reports shown, and the app includes an abbreviated species guide with links to Flickr and Wikipedia pages for more photos and information.

Song Learning 

These apps are designed specifically to help you learn bird songs and calls and can be helpful for even the most tone-deaf of birders.


Price: $3.99
Platforms: iOS
Summary: Features over 300 high-quality recordings of songs and calls of North American birds. There are several ways to experience them, including listen and slideshow modes and an interactive quiz. You can select specific species to practice identifying or select from more than a dozen different regions to focus on the most common species you are most likely to hear near you.


Price: Free download, $9.99-44.99 in-app purchases
Platforms: iOS and online
Summary: Purchase “songpacks,” covering songs and calls from up to 344 North American land birds and 135 water birds, and explore them in a game-like quiz. Offers the ability to sort by Eastern and Western birds, as well as song types, including clear, rough, complex, and simple.

Specialized Field Guides 

These apps focus on helping birders distinguish hard-to-identify birds in the field.

The Warbler Guide

Price: $12.99
Platforms: iOS and Android
Summary: Far more than a digital translation of Princeton University Press’s printed field guide, this app earns its keep during warbler migration season with features like rotatable 3-D models, recorded calls, and smart comparison tools, covering 48 species (and 75 plumages!). 

Raptor ID

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS and Android
Summary: Especially designed to help identify birds of prey in flight, this guide includes annotated photographs, video, and detailed fact sheets for 34 diurnal raptors. If you’re still stumped, the “Ask an Expert” feature lets you submit a photo or video and receive guidance from a seasoned authority.