Scientific evidence shows that the dinosaurs met their extinction through an asteroid impact. Today, if a species goes extinct, we as humans have the possibility to do something about it. In this century alone, we’ve lost animals by sea (such as the smooth handfish), by land (the northern white rhinoceros), and yes, by air (the ivory-billed woodpecker), all to extinction.
“Birds are really important because they’re indicators of environmental health; basically, what’s good for birds is good for people,” said Jesse Barry, program manager at Cornell University’s Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
“Birds are really the canaries in the coal mine in many ways,” he said. “They’re helping us understand the health of the planet. Right now, all the indicators point to a decline in bird numbers. And so, that’s a really important warning sign for us right now.”
But hope is not lost. Cornell’s Barry and his team have given all mankind a chance at redemption – and it’s sitting in the palm of our hands, quite literally.
Access the Merlin Bird ID app.
Barry says, “The idea for this app was just to help people answer the simple question, What’s that bird I see? Because maybe you’re out there, or you’re looking in the backyard and you’re like, hey, what and we wanted that marlin field guide. Be able to list the possibilities without going back, where even if you don’t have a bird book, and if you do have a bird book, there are all these choices, and you don’t even know where to start.
“So, Merlin was there to help you find out what that bird is looking at in a quick and easy way.”
The app allows users to identify birds by pictures, or songs and calls, and can create a digital scrapbook of the birds you discover.
Originally launched in 2014, early versions of the app could identify 400 North American species. Today, the app (available free for both iPhone and Android) can identify more than 6,000 bird species across six continents.
apple: Merlin Bird ID runs on iPhone and iPad and M1/M2-equipped Apple computers with iOS 15 or later. Download the app here.
Android: Merlin Bird ID runs on Android 6 or newer devices. Download the app here.
“I found the technology really useful,” says Denver amateur birder Vicki Miles. “I was really a novice birder when it came to anything outside of my backyard.
“If you see a small bird with yellow on it,” he said, “you can narrow it down to five or six possibilities and you don’t have to know whether to look for a warbler or a vireo or a goldfinch. Marlins are right. puts them before you.”
Alabama wildlife photographer Lisa Moets Smith is also an avid user: “Being a wildlife photographer, it’s great to be able to track down a specific bird so I can identify that bird on my website when I post my photograph. I’m absolutely hooked. In love with it.”
And even better news: the app is educating scientists about how climate change is affecting bird migration patterns
“The question is, can bird species adapt to these changing ecosystems? Some are more adaptable than others. So, we’re certainly watching very carefully trying to understand how bird populations are doing. Climate change is affecting their ranges,” Barry said. Affecting species across the board.”
Story created by Roman Fischer.