In the past few years, mobile applications have made big inroads into the timeless pastime, supplementing or even replacing the field guides that for generations have been the bird watcher's constant companion.
The mobile phone is well-suited to bird watching -- it knows where you are, takes photos and lets you instantly upload rare bird sightings to a global database and send out alerts to nearby birders. One app identifies bird calls, and several play recordings of calls.
No paper field guide can do all that, although many veteran birders say they are loath to give them up. They take to marshes and
forests with both their smartphone and their well-thumbed guides. But some young birders are leaving their printed field guides at home.
The first out with a dedicated iPhone birding app was iBird, produced in 2008 by the
The success of iBird soon had publishers of field guides producing their own smartphone apps.
The standard guides -- Audubon,
"The first ones looked like a book, with an additional ability to play a sound or something like that," said
"It's designed to help answer the basic question -- what's that bird I saw? -- through a step-by-step wizard that helps people arrive at a species," Barry said.
Birding apps will seem expensive to people used to paying nothing or
But "I still have a library of field guides at home that I study and make notations in. It could be the young birders won't have those. I'm 60 and I still enjoy my books."
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