Quick Links

Does Merlin let me track birds I've already identified?

Why won't Merlin show the species I'm looking for? 

Merlin is a free app. Why am I being asked for a credit card number?

How can I get help with a bird identification question or general question about birds? 

Why didn't Merlin list my bird as a possible match?

What do the rare and uncommon flags mean?

Can I use Merlin when I don't have Internet? 

Why did you name the app Merlin?

Why do I have to provide an email address and what do you do with my email?

Why should I enable Location Services and allow Merlin Bird ID to access my current location?

What devices does Merlin Bird ID work on?

Why can't I hear the bird sounds?

How can I get more photos and sounds for birds in the app?

Does Merlin Bird ID work in Canada?

Is Merlin available if you don't have a smartphone?


Does Merlin let me track birds I've already identified?

Although this version of the Merlin app does not track a list of birds you have identified, we are actively working on upgrades, and we know many users would appreciate the ability to see their past identifications.


In the meanwhile, you can help make Merlin better by submitting your sightings to eBird and keep track of your list of sightings at the same time. As you probably know, Merlin uses eBird data to determine which birds are most likely in your area. eBird is the largest worldwide database of bird sightings and it is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Reporting your sightings is free and easy. eBird also keeps track of your life lists while also making your observations available to scientists and other birders. Not only will you be helping Merlin, but you’ll be helping hundreds of other science and conservation projects. Here are instructions to help you get started with eBird.


There is also a free mobile version of eBird that you can read about on the eBird Mobile app info page.

eBird Mobile is available for both Android and iOS devices.


Why won't Merlin show the species I'm looking for? 

The first thing to check is whether you have the appropriate Bird Pack installed for your region. If a common bird is not appearing, you may not have it downloaded to your phone. Open the Bird Pack screen from the menu (top left button) and make sure the pack tagged as Nearby is installed.


Merlin works by providing a list of birds that are relatively likely in your area at the current time of year. Sometimes there are too few recorded observations in eBird of a species at that particular place and time. This would be if the bird was a relative rarity for the given time and location—or if a species was newly inhabiting the area, OR if they have been there regularly, but no one has recorded the birds in eBird. You may want to try searching for a nearby location (where there is likely to be eBird data and where the birds are similar to those in your location).


We are working to improve Merlin’s functionality in these situations, and you can help make Merlin better by submitting your sightings to eBird.org and keep track of your list of sightings at the same time. As you probably know, Merlin uses eBird data to determine which birds are most likely in your area. eBird is the largest worldwide database of bird sightings and it is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Reporting your sightings is free and easy. eBird also keeps track of your life lists while also making your observations available to scientists and other birders. Not only will you be helping Merlin, but you’ll be helping hundreds of other science and conservation projects. Here are instructions to help you get started with eBird.


There is also a free mobile version of eBird that you can read about on the eBird website.


Merlin is a free app. Why am I being asked for a credit card number? 

The Merlin App is free to download and use. When the App/Play Store asks for credit card information that is a standard prompt from Apple/Google to store your payment information in their system, if you haven’t given it to them. No payment will be processed for downloading Merlin. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers Merlin Bird ID free because it’s our mission to advance the understanding and protection of birds.


How can I get help with a bird identification question or general question about birds? 

For bird identification, feel free to email merlinhelp@cornell.edu. For general questions about birds, please email cornellbirds@cornell.edu.


Why didn't Merlin list my bird as a possible match?

  • Merlin may not have recognized your description. Try changing your size, color, or behavior selection:

    Size: We suggest shifting your size response one to two notches from your original selection. It can be very hard to estimate the size of a bird you see.

    Color: Try another combination of colors. Only enter colors that you are certain you saw. Take into account tricky lighting conditions or things that may have led you to see a color that Merlin didn’t expect.

    Behavior: Choose the behavior that fits what the bird was doing for the majority of the time you spent watching it. For example, if you saw a bird make a short flight into a tree, you are more likely to find a match if you select “In trees or bushes” because that is where the bird spends more of its time.

    Merlin typically matches “flying or soaring” to birds that spend much of their time in flight, such as hawks searching for prey or swallows hunting insects on the wing. If you chose this behavior and got a confusing result, try a different behavior.

    Since a lot of birds spend time “on the ground,” try to give Merlin another clue—for example, if the bird also spends time in or near water, try “swimming or wading” to see if Merlin will find your bird.

  • The bird you sighted could be too rare in the area where you reported it, or there may be limited eBird observations from your area.

  • There is a chance the species you encountered is not the database. You can view the complete list of species in the “Explore Birds” feature, accessible from the slide-out menu.

Merlin depends on sightings reported to eBird in order to predict likely species at a given location. In some areas, particularly rural regions, limited eBird observations may cause Merlin to miss a species that may be present at your location. You can help by visiting eBird to submit your sightings.


What do the rare and uncommon flags mean?

These flags tell you if it’s rare or unusual for the bird to be seen at the location and on the date that you selected. The same species that is common in summer might be rare in winter. Merlin knows which species are common or rare based on observations submitted to eBird, a citizen-science project that gathers observations from birders around the world.


Can I use Merlin when I don't have Internet? 

Do you frequently find yourself off the beaten path, far from reliable internet? Merlin works offline too!

Before you go, work through one test identification using your destination location. Then, when you are offline, you can just select that stored location and Merlin will still do its magic. Merlin will save your six most recent locations, so make sure your offline destination is among those.


Why did you name the app Merlin?

We named the app “Merlin” because of its uncanny, almost magical way of guessing which bird you saw (or at least that’s the goal we’re working toward). Of course, the real magic comes from science: Merlin knows which birds are near you, based on sightings submitted by bird watchers to the eBird citizen-science project. A Merlin is also a pint-sized falcon found across the northern hemisphere. It’s a speedy, powerful, and exciting bird to watch!


Why do I have to provide an email address and what do you do with my email?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers Merlin Bird ID free because it’s our mission to advance the understanding and protection of birds. However, there are costs to improving the app and keeping it updated on ever-changing mobile platforms. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on donor support to sustain efforts like these. Providing your email address helps us achieve more mission by enabling us to share updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to support conservation. You can unsubscribe from these communications at any time.


We will never sell or give your email address to others. You are welcome to enjoy the app for a five-day trial period before confirming your email address.


Why should I enable Location Services and allow Merlin Bird ID to access my current location? 

Assuming that you saw the bird at your current location, granting access to your current location is the fastest way for Merlin to find out which birds are near you.


What devices does Merlin Bird ID work on?

Merlin Bird ID works on Apple and Android mobile devices. This includes Apple devices with iOS 7 or newer and Android devices that run OS 4 or higher.


Why can't I hear the bird sounds?

When this problem occurs, it is almost always due to the Sound Lock. This is a physical switch located near the volume buttons on iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. When the orange tab is showing, the phone is in Silent Mode and Merlin cannot play bird sounds.


Note that this situation can be confusing because Apple allows some apps (including Music, Message, Phone, and Clock) to produce sounds even when in Silent Mode. The fact that other apps are producing sounds can give you the impression that sound is working. Third-party apps like Merlin cannot play sounds when the switch is in Silent Mode.


How can I get more photos and sounds for birds in the app?

The Merlin team will periodically add photos and sounds. Please make sure you have the latest version by enabling automatic app updates on your device or manually updating the app, and by checking the Bird Packs page for any updates to your installed Bird Packs. For a complete collection of bird sounds, we recommend purchasing the Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America. Visit: Macaulay Library Master Set for North America


Does Merlin Bird ID work in Canada?

Yes. Merlin allows you to enter locations around the world. In remote regions of Canada and other parts of the world there may be limited data (eBird observations) to inform Merlin’s results list, so Merlin may not be as precise or accurate in remote areas.


Is Merlin available if you don't have a smartphone?

We are developing a web-based version of Merlin that will not require a smartphone. It’s not quite ready for prime time yet. For now, you can use the 5-step identification tool on North American species using the widget in All About Birds. If you'd like to give it a try, visit the All About Birds website, and then click the "Merlin Bird ID" button in the upper right portion of your screen.