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.



Quick Links

How can I get the Sound ID feature in Merlin Bird ID? 

I'm seeing “Unable to start recording session,” what's wrong?

What happens if Merlin can’t ID a bird in a recording?

Is Merlin always right?

Which species can Sound ID identify? When will Sound ID be available for my region?

How can I help expand and improve Merlin Bird ID?

Does it work offline? 

Can I use Sound ID on a desktop computer? 

Manage Your Recordings

Do recordings automatically get shared with Macaulay Library? Can I share my recordings with eBird and the Macaulay Library? 

Where on my device are recordings stored?

How do I delete a recording?

How long of a recording can I make or import?

Merlin works best with recordings of 2 minutes or less. Once you reach that length, Merlin will pop up a notification to alert you, we suggest stopping the recording at this point unless the bird is in the middle of a prolonged song. 

Can I export the recordings I make? 

Can I import recordings made with another app? 

How can I improve my recordings? 

Should I use an external microphone to record birds?  

What types of audio files can I import into Merlin Bird ID?  

How do I get recordings that are on my computer to the Merlin Bird ID app? 

 

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?

No. Merlin shows a list of possible birds based on the songs and calls you recorded, and matches that with the birds that are likely in your area. Explore the matches provided by Merlin and compare the provided audio recordings to see if it matches your bird. Merlin is a great birding companion that suggests which species are more likely, but it relies on you to confirm what you’re hearing or seeing.


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, 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 submitting them to your checklist. Birders who are experts at identifying birds by their songs and calls can contribute as well, by annotating the 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 to set your location when you have internet to get the best matches for your location, before you go 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? 

No recordings are transmitted automatically from your device. If you like, you can share recordings made with Sound ID. You can share your recordings with eBird and the Macaulay Library by exporting your recordings and adding them to your eBird checklist manually. To find out how, see our Media Upload FAQ. 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?

Please go to "My Sound Recordings" in the main 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. Also on Android, you can 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 works best with recordings of 2 minutes or less. Once you reach that length, Merlin will pop up a notification to alert you, we suggest stopping the recording at this point unless the bird is in the middle of a prolonged song. 


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 by the microphone and will be louder than the bird you are trying to record. 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 these microphones to your smartphone. These types of highly directional microphones absolutely do make a difference in recording quality. Check out our 2019 gear review for more information 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 an share/export option. Tap to open your file in Merlin and see ID suggestions!