May 28, 2022

Coming Spring '12: "Bird Song App Identifies Feathered Friends by Tweets" (Shazam for Birds)

UPDATE: Make sure to check the two “See Also” links below for two identification apps using visual recognition technology.

From the University of Wisconsin News Service:
(via Princeton University Press Blog)

Squinting into wind-blown trees and bushes is for the birds, especially if it’s the birds you’re looking for.

“You have to listen. There’s no way around it,” says Mark Berres, a University of Wisconsin–Madison ornithologist. “The most difficult aspect of bird-watching is call identification, but calls are the most important tool for identifying birds.”

Even the most experienced birders have trouble matching more than a handful of songs with species, but by melding his background in our feathered friends, teaching and genetics, Berres may have answered the prayers of bird-watchers, researchers and even the most casual naturalist.


For more than a year, Berres (and his graduate students, of course) have been testing and improving the fruit of that inspiration: WeBIRD, the Wisconsin Electronic Bird Identification Resource Database.

Like music-identification apps Shazam and MusicID, WeBIRD allows anyone with a smartphone and a mysterious bird nearby to record the bird’s call, submit it wirelessly to a server and (after a few seconds) receive a positive ID on the species of bird tweeting away within earshot.

“I am amazed at how good it is,” says Berres, who has also used WeBIRD to identify grasshopper species by their clicking calls and frogs by their croaks. “In fact, not only can WeBIRD tell you which species you’re hearing, it’s good enough to identify individual birds from their song.”

For birders, the former qualifies as a reason to rejoice. For researchers, the latter could change the nature of field studies. For the birds, WeBIRD — which hopes to make available to the public in time for the spring migration in 2012 — could be a lifesaver.

Read the Complete WeBIRD Post

See Also: MealSnap (Take Pictures of Food, Get Back Nutrition Info)
An iOS app using visual recognition technology.

See Also: Leafsnap
Use your camera (iOS) to take a picture of leaf. Leafsnap, using visual recog tech, will identify the type of tree it came from.

According to iTunes, Leafsnap is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Hat Tip: Jessica Pellien (Princeton U. Press Blog)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.