How does Photo ID work? 


Recent computer vision and machine learning advances, which, coupled with the growing image resources of Macaulay Library uploaded by thousands of eBird users, have allowed us to create photo identification models that run on mobile devices. These models run through thousands of images for each species, and looks for patterns that are shared between all photos of a single species. With enough images, the Photo ID tool can correctly identify images of birds in different postures, and from different angles.


The Photo ID tool will continue to improve as more images are uploaded to Macaulay Library. If you are a photographer, you can find out more about contributing your images by reading the eBird Help Page.


I am not getting good suggestions. What can I do? 

There are several things you can try if Photo ID isn’t giving you any suggestions that fit your photo. From the results screen, scroll down to where you see a thumbnail of your photo. Here you can check to make sure your location and date are correct, and edit them if necessary. You can also tap Edit beside your photo, which will let you crop it differently. Usually it works best if the entire bird fills the square, but sometimes it helps to pinch out a little, so the bird only takes up 1/2 of the square.


If neither of these tweaks work, you can try tapping on the “I Don’t Know” button on the Location and Date confirmation screen. This will suggest an identification without using your location and time of year to filter down the list of possibilities.


Why does Photo ID require a separate download?

The piece of code responsible for Photo ID is just under 100 MB, and we decided that it made more sense to keep the initial download of Merlin Bird ID as small as possible. Additionally, this makes it easy for us to release updates and improvements to the Photo ID code separately from any app update, keeping the ID tools as up to date as possible.


How many species can Merlin Photo ID identify? 

Merlin Photo ID works on the bird species that are included in the currently released Bird Packs. We’ll keep working on adding more species. We appreciate your patience, since “teaching” Merlin new species requires extensive data collection, testing, and troubleshooting.

When you download the Photo ID model to your phone, it comes ready to identify all the species that Merlin content is available for. Photo ID can identify a bird whether or not you have a Bird Pack installed that includes that bird. You can actually use Photo ID without installing a Bird Pack!