Identify Birds With iBird Pro for Android
At a Glance
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If you have ever seen or heard a bird in the wild and wanted to learn more about it, the iBird Pro Android app might be just what you need. iBird Pro contains detailed photos, information, and song clips for over 900 North American and Hawaiian bird species. You can search for bird species by 35 attributes, including location, body shape, size, habitat, color, song, flight pattern, and bill shape.
The default view lists the species in alphabetical order, with thumbnail images. You can scroll and flick the screen to move through the list, or you can type in the search box. The results list will automatically narrow as you type: For example, as you type "rob," the list narrows from 924 total bird species to just four species of robins. You can toggle between views of the first and last common names, and the family name. With family names, you can toggle between taxonomic and alphabetical views. You can also search by Latin names.
For more advanced search, you can press Menu, Search and select from the list of 35 attributes. You can manually select a state or province as a location parameter, but unfortunately the app does not take advantage of GPS functionality.
You can press a species result to view more information, including detailed drawings, photographs, text descriptions, range maps, taxonomy and ecology information, similar species, Wikipedia articles, Flickr photo galleries, and high-quality bird-call audio clips. The last item is my favorite feature. For most species the app includes several examples of bird calls, so you can get a good idea of the range of sounds that the bird can make. "Similar sounding" species clips help prevent confusion and ensure proper identification. On my Droid Incredible, the sound quality was good enough and loud enough to attract the attention of real birds.
You can add a bird to your Favorites list or save a time-stamped note. You can even e-mail a combined list of all your notes to share with friends. It would be nice to be able to add an audio clip or a GPS location stamp to a note, but this is not currently possible.
Unlike the similar app Audubon Birds, this program doesn't allow you to add photos to your notes. Since the quality of cell phone cameras generally isn't very good, this may not be a serious omission in terms of bird identification. However, the ability to photograph the location of a bird sighting, along with Android's ability to stamp the photo with GPS location data, would be a useful feature for serious bird watchers if it were properly implemented. Also, the ability to export GPS data from sightings into a spreadsheet, in a manner similar to the My Tracks app, would be convenient.
Although the quality of the app's hand-drawn bird illustrations is very good, I still prefer photographs for identification purposes. Personally, I would rather skip the drawings and have higher-resolution photographs instead. Video clips would be another nice addition, especially for species that exhibit unusual behaviors.
Not surprisingly, iBird Pro uses a lot of data. You can choose to download data as you go, one species at a time (obviously, this option depends on having a good cellular data connection), or you can download the entire field guide and store it on an SD Card. If you choose to download the entire guide, I recommend using Wi-Fi instead of a cellular data connection.
iBird Pro is a decidedly superior alternative to traditional paper field guides, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about North American birds.