Identify Bird Calls Easily with the BirdNET App


Have you ever wondered about a certain cheep, chirp, or tweet up there in the trees? If you are wondering how to tell what bird you’re hearing, we might have the right app for you. BirdNET is an app that easily tells you what bird you are currently hearing with just a few taps, but let me tell you more. You don’t have to be an ornithologist for the next steps.

How to identify a bird species with sound?

BirdNET is a collaboration of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Chemnitz University of Technology, the German Ministry for Education and Research, Xeno-Canto, and eBird. The solution is a neat compact app that lets you record sounds, and you can then highlight the part of the recording easily, in which you recorded the bird that you want to identify. BirdNET currently identifies the 984 most common species of North America and Europe, but they plan to add more to their solution.

BirdNET ornithology bird call recognize identify species tweet audio recording app screenshots
Screenshots of the BirdNET app on iOS

In the next step, the recorded audio sample is analyzed, and the app will provide you with a list of results, ranked in how likely each result is to be the right match for the bird you are trying to discover. The system splits the audio signal, classifies it with a neural net, and then sends the results to the client. After tests, I found BirdNET to be rather precise, and usually, it would only show you a single bird as a result and that with a high likelihood. Naturally, this also relies on the quality of the recording, but if you’re outside and the bird isn’t too far away, this would usually work fine. In order to process the data, the client sends the selected parts of recorded audio to the servers of BirdNET before it can present you the results.

BirdNET App To Identify Birds With Recorded Sound Hiking Strolling Outside Nature Animal Calls
Testing BirdNET outside

Why do they need to track my geographic position?

Next to the permission to use the device’s microphone which is rather obvious, they also ask you to use your position in the app. This is not to collect data of your whereabouts. The bird identification and lookup feature based on the noises of the animal works better when the app can assess where you are recording the audio and what birds would be more likely to live near you. In case a bird call from a species that is common in North America sounds similar to a species in Europe, it makes sense that they show me the local results with a much higher likelihood.

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Try it out on the BirdNET website

On the BirdNET site, you can also check into the live stream demo of their technology, which is an audio feed from a microphone outside the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, located in the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary in Ithaca, New York. If you don’t want to use the smartphone app or if you want to identify birds on a recording you did in the past, you can also use their website to upload a file for online bird sound identification right in your browser.

Stefan Kahl from Chemnitz University of Technology developed the app in partnership with researchers from Hochschule Mittweida
University researcher Dr. Stefan Kahl is part of the international team that developed the BirdNET app. Photo: Chemnitz University of Technology / Lars Meese

Try the smartphone app of BirdNET

In many cases, it makes sense to install the BirdNET app and use it while you’re actually hiking or strolling outside. If you ever wondered about a particularly curious bird near you and want to find out what species “sings” like that, you can use the app and identify birds fairly easily. You only start the microphone, wait until you got a good capture of the bird, select it on the visualization of the audio on your display, and then you get the results. In the following screen, you can also tap to read more info about this particular species or watch images or videos of that bird. You can download the app for free for iOS and Android.

The BirdNET team consists of Stefan Kahl, Ashakur Rahaman, Connor Wood, Amir Dadkhah, Shyam Madhusudhana, and Holger Klinck. You can follow them on Twitter to be informed about their latest tweets (get it?).

YouTube: Identifying Bird Sounds with the BirdNET Mobile App

YouTube: What’s that bird song? ID birds by sound with BirdNET

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Jan Meeus and is symbolic. The photos in the body of the article have been made available as part of a press release from the Chemnitz University of Technology. The screenshots were taken from the iTunes App Store.

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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