By Jody Allair, Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement, Bird Studies Canada
As spring firmly sets in across much of Canada, there’s no better time to get outside and get more familiar with the bird species in your neck of the woods. These days, there are no shortage of great online tools and apps to help you learn more about nearby birding locations, solving those tricky bird IDs, or document the birds you find.
Field guides are undoubtedly great bird ID resources, but not everyone wants to carry a traditional book-form guide into the field. Nowadays, most major field guides are also available in app form. There also are several dedicated Bird ID apps, such as iBird (available for Apple and Android devices). Some are free, while others can cost about the same amount as a traditional book field guide. One of my favourite free apps for new birders is the Merlin Bird ID app (compatible with Apple and Android devices). Merlin uses simple steps to help you identify a bird in the field, and can now identify uploaded photos and provide an online list of the birds you are most likely to encounter while birding.
eBird Canada (ebird.ca) is a great place to start exploring the world of birds around you. Managed by Bird Studies Canada, eBird Canada is collaborative project with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird, and Regroupement QuébecOiseaux. eBird Canada allows you to keep track of all the birds you find. Not only that – the “Explore” feature will help you find the best birding hotspots in your area. There’s also a new “Explore Species” section where you can take a deep dive and learn about almost all of the world’s bird species.
For entering your spring and summer bird observations, I recommend the free eBird mobile app. The app is very intuitive to use and is a convenient way to keep lists of the birds you see anywhere in the world. Note that the Merlin Bird ID app, mentioned above, usefully integrates with the eBird mobile app.
Brand-new birders may also benefit from our “Get Into Birding” tips, so check them out or share them with a friend who is getting started. And if the time you spend with birds gets you thinking about what you can do to help them, I invite you to visit birdscanada.org. There, you will find Bird Studies Canada’s recommended Top 6 Ways You Can Help Birds as well as information about bird-focused Citizen Science projects from coast to coast to coast that you can be a part of.