Audubon Bird Guide of North America is an outstanding mobile field guide resource completely updated to the current American Ornithologists’ Union checklist
Runs offline: partially
Last update: Android 05/07/2017 (v. 4.3.19) – iOS 04/07/2017 (v. 4.11)
Website of the developer: Audubon
Notes: article update on 10/07/2017
Most bird watching fans will have heard on the Audubon bird guide, a classic in the identification of birds in North America. Some time ago that the paper edition made the leap to digital format in app version, being a paid app which now can be downloaded for free.
The latest update requests, first of all, an e-mail or the identification through Facebook. After this procedure, the app shows a small tutorial that highlights the main features.
The initial screen shows the six main sections of the application, which are described briefly below:
- “Explore birds”, which as its name suggests, it allows to access bird identification keys to recognize the different species. The system allows to discriminate against species based on their shape, family or name (common or scientific), allowing also an advanced search or the access to the whole list of birds. Especially noteworthy are the individual data sheets for each species, in which the photographs acquire great importance. This graphic part is complemented by a distribution map for USA and Canada (summer, winter, resident, migration and rare), an audio file with calls or bird songs, a textual description, similar species, a sharing option and a map with sightings made by NatureShare network users (data takes a few seconds to load).
- “Find birds with eBird”. eBird is a global sightings database launched in 2002 by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society itself. Although eBird has its own app, the present Audubon application and the Merlin Bird ID app complement it. Through this option and depending on the location of the user, nearest sightings or hot spots for observation can be located.
- “Add a sighting”, option to notify your own observations. It consists in a form to complete adding photographs, location, date, labels, field notes, etc. It requires prior registration.
- “My sightings”, from where you can access the observations which you’ve done.
- “NatureShare community”, a social network in which users share their observations and related information.
- “Birding and photography”, section that incorporates links to web pages with tips to take pictures with the mobile or routes by U.S. to observe birds, also offering a link where you can observe and download the watercolors drawn by J. J. Audubon.
- “Helpd birds now”, section that links with information on native plant species that are attractive to birds or tools and activities that powers citizen science.
Images: Screenshots 11/11/2015. ©Audubon
It has been 175 years since the first edition of “The birds of America: from drawings made in the United States and their territories“, written and illustrated by John J. Audubon himself. The watercolors have given way to the digitization of knowledge, offering it now in an application format, more simple to handle and less cumbersome to carry.
As mentioned above, this Audubon guide is a classic reference which has inspired similar works. The numerous photographs deserve a special mention , many of them of remarkable quality. They also include the main characteristics of bird identification (information accessible through an icon located in the bottom right). The main problem with the application is the size it occupies. In the Android version, for example, the basic installation is approximately 35MB, as is listed in the “Useful information” section, but later the information must be downloaded, taking up about 700MB, as discussed in the page of Audubon. In the version of iOS, used for the present analysis, the information for offline consultation can be downloaded from an option in the side menu and as the application itself warns, this information occupies approximately 820MB. Maybe there is also a lack of information regarding the status of species protection. While in some cases the USA and Canada laws are mentioned, as in the data sheet of the California condor, in other endemic species such as the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus), listed by IUCN Red List as “endangered”, there is no mention to any protection category, although the factsheet warns about the decline in population.