6 Best Birding Apps for Beginners

Photo: Peterson Birds app
The Peterson Bird app offers illustrations, in depth information on each bird's appearance, wingspan, habitat and much more.

We're all familiar with the stereotypical image of the birder, juggling a field guide, notebook, binoculars and camera. These days, though, birders have it much easier: Birding apps for tablets and smartphones make spotting and identifying birds easier than ever.

We checked out the available North American birding technology and found six apps that are intuitive and easy for novices to use — and offer extensive information and additional features for experienced birders as well.

No matter what your current skill level, these apps make it easy to track your finds and increase your bird-based knowledge.

Peterson Birds

These apps draw from the bestselling "Peterson Field Guide" series of books. You can choose from three different “levels," depending on your needs, interest and budget.

Peterson Birds of North America, $14.99
This full version provides everything you want to know about 820 different birds, including color illustrations and nest/egg photos, comprehensive searches by name and state, songs and calls, range maps, checklists, additional species information (molting, anyone?) and a cool species comparison tool.

Peterson Birds Pocket Edition, $0.99
This version covers the same 820 birds, but includes fewer details about each one. The core functionality is still there, though: comprehensive search, illustrations, songs and basic information about each species.   

Peterson Feeder Birds of North America, free
A great way to get your feet wet in birding, this free app offers extensive information, illustrations, audio and comprehensive search for 160 birds you might find at your backyard feeder.  

Peterson Birds apps, available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, free-$14.99.

National Geographic Birds

The National Geographic Birds app, which was named one of School Library Journal’s Top Apps of 2013, draws on robust information from its companion book, National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America.

The app includes nearly 900 North American species and 3,000 full-color illustrations to help you identify birds in your area. Search functionality allows users to search and sort by name, location, size and color. Videos help you learn to recognize bird songs and calls, while more than 800 range maps allow you to keep track of specific types of birds.

Beginners will benefit from the app's quizzes, which test birding knowledge. The app also covers basic information about being a birder, including gear recommendations, community guidelines, lingo, etiquette and more. And out in the field, the “My Journal” section allows you to keep track of sightings, life lists and other data.

National Geographic Birds, available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch for $9.99.

Sibley e-Guide to Birds

Another well-known nature guide series offers itscomprehensive information in an app for a variety of platforms. The Sibley e-Guide to Birds covers 810 species with a whopping 6,600 illustrations, showing birds perched and in flight from different angles. These images accompany detailed descriptions, including subspecies, regional variations, measurements and weight ranges of North American birds.

Sibley also offers 2,300 audio recordings of songs and calls, which will help you identify and compare similar species.

Search functionality allows you to search by name or filter by state, province or most commonly seen species. Detailed range maps help track birds, and your own personal sightings log ensures you can keep your life list at your fingertips when you have a species to add.

For novices, Sibley offers a free “lite” version with 20 species, which is a good way to test the app before you buy.

Sibley e-Guide to Birds, available for iPhone and iPod touch, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows 8 and BlackBerry for $19.99.


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