[Tweeters] The Future of Bird ID

Teri Martine terimartine at me.com
Sun Nov 5 11:27:41 PST 2017

FYI, interesting post from Noah Strycker on Oregon Birders On Line (OBOL) --
Teri Martine

From: Noah Strycker <noah.strycker at gmail.com>
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2017 20:24:06 -0700
Subject: [obol] The Future of Bird ID

Hi birders,
David's query ("Bird ID please"), with links to three photos of a mystery
raptor in California, inspired me to try a little test.

Note: If you haven't downloaded Merlin, the bird ID app from Cornell, do it
now! (I have no commercial interest in the app, and only recently tried it
for the first time. It's free.)

I clicked on David's first link, a photo of a brownish hawk in flight - one
that would probably confuse a lot of birders. Then, using my phone, I took
a snapshot of that picture as it was displayed on my computer monitor (a
horribly pixillated way to transfer the image to my phone, but fast).

I opened the Merlin app on my phone, tapped "Photo ID," selected that
picture, chose "I don't know" when it asked the location and date, and...
it told me it was a Swainson's Hawk. I tried it with the second image, and
Merlin again guessed that the bird was a Swainson's Hawk. (Which it is.)
The whole process took less than a minute.

That's pretty radical! Merlin will now identify any species of North
American bird (including Mexico) with a click, and it's amazingly accurate.
I tried it on fall warblers, sparrows, and juvenile shorebirds, and Merlin
got them all right. Then I gave it photos of Black-capped and Carolina
chickadees, with no hints about location, and it nailed those, too. It
correctly identified a bird painting on my wall, and told me that the
Oregon Birding Association's logo depicts a Hermit Warbler. It's not
infallible - I was finally able to stump it with a picture of a stuffed
Labrador Duck (not in the database, apparently!).

Who knows? Maybe the next generation of birding optics will have these
algorithms built in. The technology is already here. Once you download the
app, it works offline, too.


Good birding,


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