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Milestones for citizen science

A new free birding app containing 285 of the most common birds of North America will make it easier to identify birds such as this pair of mallard ducks.
TRR photos by Sandy Long

January 29, 2014

Those who love birds and want to support their welfare will be eager to know of two bird-related developments in which citizens have played important roles.

Recently, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology released its new app, Merlin, designed as a birding coach for beginning and intermediate bird watchers. Using a series of questions, Merlin helps identify which birds are most likely to be seen, based on location, date and a brief description. Drawing upon more than 70 million sightings submitted from birders across the United States and Canada, possible species are listed.

Cornell Lab experts and birding enthusiasts helped to “teach” Merlin. Using the app by identifying birds in your location helps to improve its future performance. Merlin also contains expert tips, more than 1,400 photos and sounds for each species. Visit to learn more.

In addition, the Great Backyard Bird Count is just around the corner. Now in its 17th year, the initiative gathers information from thousands of volunteers who help track the health of bird populations around the world. In 2013, more than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded, with participants reporting sightings from all seven continents. More than 100 countries are expected to participate this year. Visit for more information.