Yellow-throated Warbler © Ryan Sanderson / Macaulay Library
Who's singing? Merlin Bird ID can tell you! Simply hold out your phone, tap record, and you'll get suggestions in real time, along with recordings of suggested species you can play to compare with what you're hearing to confirm the ID.
Merlin can help you learn bird sounds! Merlin uses thousands of recordings to learn the vocalizations of each bird species. Watch as suggestions appear and note the pitch and pattern of each bird singing.
Identifying birds by sound is tricky. Some birds sound very similar, and the best way to learn is to see the bird that is singing.
A suggestion from Merlin is just the beginning. You decide if Merlin suggestions are a good match for your bird. Make sure to compare your bird with Merlin’s example sounds and species details.
How can I get the Sound ID feature in Merlin Bird ID?
Start by downloading Merlin (it's free!) After you install the app, tap "Get Sound ID" to activate the sound ID feature. If you already have Merlin on your device, simply visit the App Store or Google Play to download the latest update.
I'm seeing “Unable to start recording session”—what's wrong?
If you're seeing this error, please be sure that Merlin Bird ID has permission to access your device's microphone. On iOS, go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone, then flip the toggle ON next to Merlin Bird ID. On Android, search settings at the magnifying glass icon for "Permission" to find the appropriate menu to change app permissions. If that doesn't work, please delete and reinstall Merlin.
What happens if Merlin can’t ID a bird in a recording?
Try getting closer to the bird without disturbing it and try recording again. If Merlin still doesn’t have possible matches, it could be that the species you are trying to record is not supported in Merlin. In this case, you can browse the likely species for your area in Explore Birds, listen to provided recordings, and read the identification help text to see if there are any good matches.
Is Merlin always right?
Which species can Sound ID identify? When will Sound ID be available for my region?
Sound ID currently supports 450+ birds in the US and Canada, 250 species in the Western Palearctic region, and will be expanding around the world as our collection of recordings shared by eBird users to the Macaulay Library continues to grow. The Sound ID algorithms need at least 100 recordings for a species that include a variety of sounds to be able to identify that species consistently. Sound ID will be frequently updated as the team trains the computer to recognize more and more bird sounds. You can contribute by recording the common birds in your area, and uploading them with your eBird checklists.
How can I help expand and improve Merlin Bird ID?
Merlin Bird ID is a community-built resource, relying on the data and media collected by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world! If you live in an area not covered by Sound ID, you can best contribute by recording the songs and calls of the birds around you and uploading them to your eBird checklists. Birders who are experts at identifying birds by their songs and calls can contribute as well by annotating audio recordings in Macaulay Library.
Does it work offline?
Yes, Merlin Bird ID works offline, so no matter how far you are from cellular service, you’ll be able to record bird sounds and get a list of possible matches. For best results, make sure you still have location services enabled even if you are offline.
Can I use Sound ID on a desktop computer?
No, the photo ID and sound ID features within Merlin Bird ID are only available for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. You can identify birds by answering a few easy questions on the web at https://merlinweb.allaboutbirds.org/
Manage Your Recordings
Do recordings automatically get shared with Macaulay Library? Can I share my recordings with eBird and the Macaulay Library?
Recordings are not transmitted automatically from your device. If you like, you can share recordings made with Sound ID with eBird and the Macaulay Library by exporting them and adding them to your eBird checklist manually. To find out how, see our media Upload best practices. In the future you will be able to submit your recordings straight from your phone.
Where on my device are recordings stored?
Files are stored in the app in "My Sound Recordings". You can export or share recordings you are exploring. On Android, you can also access your recordings from the file system under Music > Merlin. This Merlin folder will contain all sound recordings made with Merlin on your device.
How do I delete a recording?
Go to "My Sound Recordings" in the main Sound ID menu. On iOS, you can swipe left on the file to delete a particular recording. Tapping a recording then opening the edit menu is another way to find a delete button. On Android, long-press a recording from the My Sound Recordings menu to delete it, or open the recording and tap the delete icon. On Android, you can also access your recordings from the file system under Music > Merlin. This Merlin folder will contain all sound recordings made with Merlin on your device.
How long of a recording can I make or import?
Merlin Sound ID gives best results on recordings of 10 minutes or less. Once you reach that length, Merlin will pop up a notification to ask if you want to stop the recording. You can make and import recordings longer than this, but note that they might load more slowly.
Can I export the recordings I make?
Yes, just tap the share button to export or share your recording via text or any app that supports file sharing.
Can I import recordings made with another app?
Yes. To identify birds in recordings made with other devices, simply tap “import” and select an audio file, and Merlin Bird ID will provide you with a list of possible birds. You can also use the share or export option in other apps to send an audio file directly to Merlin.
How can I improve my recordings?
One of the best ways to improve the quality of your recording is to get closer to the sound you are hearing, but you’ll need to do this with care. Slowly and carefully approach the bird you want to record but be careful not to alter its behavior or cause it to leave. Also remember that you are the closest thing to the microphone, so your movements will get picked up and be louder than the bird you are trying to record. Try not to move while you are recording! Read more recording tips.
Should I use an external microphone to record birds?
A variety of external microphones are available specifically for smartphones and are compatible with Merlin. Most are so small that they do not make much of a difference compared to the built-in microphones on smartphones. In general, using good recording technique makes more of a difference for smartphone recordings than purchasing a small external microphone. However, if you have a shotgun microphone, a simple cable or adapter can allow you to connect it to your smartphone. These types of highly directional microphones absolutely do make a difference in recording quality. Check out our 2019 gear review for some ideas on microphone options.
What types of audio files can I import into Merlin Bird ID?
Merlin will accept most standard type of audio files including mp3, m4a, and wav, depending on what files your phone supports.
How do I get recordings that are on my computer to the Merlin Bird ID app?
You can import audio from various sources on your phone.
From Merlin Bird ID: Tap Sound ID, then “My Sound Recordings”. The import option on this screen lets you choose from a variety of sources, depending on your phone.
From other apps: select the audio you want to open in Merlin, and find the share/export button. You should see Merlin Bird ID as a share/export option. Tap to open your file in Merlin and see ID suggestions!