Merlin is a tremendously impressive resource for identifying bird sounds. Simply aim your phone's microphone at a bird you aren't sure about, and the app is likely to pick it up and identify it. But like anything, it is not perfect. Here are some tips from eBird to help make the most of this new tool and avoid common mistakes.
- Verify each identification Merlin provides. Try to see the bird, if possible. Always consider the suggested ID and how likely it is before reporting it.
- Set your location. Enable location services or enter the location manually so that Merlin’s suggestions are more accurate.
- Include the recording in your checklist. This simultaneously provides documentation for your sighting, helps improve Merlin, and contributes to the sound library for that species. Win-win-win!
If you can’t verify Merlin’s identification, you should treat it like any other bird you can’t identify and either omit it from the checklist or report it at the family level. If you include a recording as documentation, include timestamps of the relevant sounds in the comment box.
If you haven’t heard of Merlin before, it’s a bird sound identification app created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. While recording sounds, the app suggests identifications for any bird sounds it detects. These suggestions are impressively accurate, but they are not always correct. Verify any identification before reporting it to eBird, especially if it seems unusual. You can download Merlin from the App Store or from Google Play.
Read the Merlin Sound ID best practices guide