The app’s new ‘Shazam for birds’ feature was made possible through citizen science. Here’s how it all works—and why you should download it.
By Charlotte Hu | Updated Jul 28, 2021 8:20 AM
Last year, as pandemic lockdown restrictions hit the US, new bird enthusiasts flocked to the free Merlin Bird ID app.
The app, which comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, previously offered ways for users to identify a mystery bird near them through descriptions or a photo.
Earlier this summer, it received an even cooler feature: the ability to recognize a bird based on a short audio clip of its song, chirp, or call.
Starting in March 2020, the Merlin team saw an uptick in the number of app downloads, a trend that’s persisted. “Not only were we getting more downloads, but the number of active users has continued to grow,” says Drew Weber, the project coordinator for Merlin. This spring, 1.2 million people (and counting) were on Merlin. “People are downloading it, getting into birds, and they’re still into birds this year, even though the realities of lockdown and such are changing,” he says. “It seems like it piqued their interest, and kept their interest.”