Shazam for birds: this new bird call identifier app works on 400 species, for free

The free Merlin Bird ID app, made by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, identifies bird songs of over 400 species in real time for free.

A new bird call identifier app from Cornell University identifies the sounds of 400 bird species.

For free, and in real time.

Is there a Shazam for bird songs?


The free Merlin Bird ID app, made by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, makes a quantum leap in bird identification.

By just holding up your phone towards the sound, Merlin listens with you and uses AI to identify the species.

Even if multiple species are singing at once.

Merlin can now help you identify more than 400 bird species by sound throughout the United States and Canada; with more species and regions are being added soon.

A previous version of the app was able to identify 7,500 species based on photos or descriptions.

And now the app has added audio. 

A bird call identifier powered by thousands of volunteers

Merlin’s pioneering approach to sound identification uses AI technology powered by tens of thousands of citizen scientists who have contributed their bird observations and sound recordings.

“Thousands of sound recordings train Merlin to recognize each bird species, and more than a billion bird observations in eBird tell Merlin which birds are likely to be present at a particular place and time,” said Merlin’s project coordinator Drew Weber.

“Having this incredibly robust bird dataset — and feeding that into faster and more powerful machine-learning tools — enables Merlin to identify birds by sound now,” he said.

This would have seemed like a daunting challenge only a few years ago. 

Birdsong identification via spectrograms

Instead of cracking the problem by teaching computers to identify the actual sounds, researchers at the Cornell Lab trained Merlin to recognize the visual patterns of each bird song based on spectrograms .

Those are images that capture the amplitude, frequency, and duration of the sound.

The massively popular song-identification app Shazam uses a similar technique.

“The sound recordings that each user makes get quickly turned into spectrograms.

And in the same way that Merlin can identify a bird by what it looks like, it can now also now make an ID by what the bird’s sound looks like,” said Merlin’s lead researcher Grant Van Horn.

This bird call identifier IDs multiple species at once, at the touch of a button

Merlin can help identify individual bird sounds even when multiple birds are singing at the same time.

With one-touch access, you can also go deeper and learn more about each bird.

The app offers ID tips, maps, and more than 80,000 photos and sounds from the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library.

“The Merlin app really unlocks a whole new world of sound,” said the Cornell Lab’s Jessie Barry, whose team led the project.

“It helps everyone solve the mystery birds they’re hearing around them,” she said.

Even better, the technology that powers Merlin’s sound identification can also be used for research and bird conservation.

This opens up new possibilities for the way scientists can monitor, study, and protect birds.

The Merlin Bird ID app with this new “Sound ID” feature is available now, for free, on both iOS and Android devices. 

Merlin Bird ID Features:   

  • Intelligent results: Merlin shows the birds near you that match your description, photo, or sound recording. No more scanning through hundreds of possibilities!  
  • Extra features: bird identification tips, range maps, photos, and sounds that help you learn even more about the birds you spot.  
  • Save your heard birds! Merlin lets save a list of birds you’ve identified to keep track of the birds you’ve seen and heard.

Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler by Trac Vu via Unsplash.

Is there an app that can identify bird sounds?

Yes, a new bird call identifier called Merlin Bird ID app, made by researchers from Cornell University, can identify the sounds of more than 400 North American bird species.

It’s completely free, and works in real time.

Is there a free app to identify bird song?

Yes, the Merlin Bird ID app can identify the sounds of more than 400 bird species throughout the United States and Canada, with more species and regions to be added soon.