31 July 2014

The Changing Face of Birding

Let's face it--identifying a bird's species isn't always easy. (Ever tried to distinguish between the various types of flycatchers?)

For novice bird-watchers, the struggle of identification sometimes becomes an obstacle to getting to know birds. Professional bird-watchers have the skills to make quick identifications, but the rest of us can spend hours consulting field guides and online resources, and even then, we may not confirm the species.

A new, free smart-phone app promises to make bird-identification tools more available, giving a greater number of people the chance for full engagement in birding. Birdsnap uses facial-recognition software to identify birds. All a person needs to do is take a picture of the bird in question. The app then uses the bird's physical characteristics to make the identification. For a more detailed discussion of Birdsnap, check out this article by Chelsea Harvey of Audubon Magazine.

In recent years, technology has made the avian world more accessible to us. From nestcams to Web sites like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds, we have a growing number of opportunities to engage with and learn about birds. With its innovative technology, Birdsnap represents another important contribution to birding.

Thanks to technology, birding might look different than it did twenty years ago, but the changes have turned more bird species into familiar faces.

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