Technology in the garden - birdsong identification apps

Listening to birdsong is one of the great pleasures of being in our gardens more.  And while all birdsong is a delight, getting to know particular bird song brings even greater satisfaction.  Some people are pretty good at this already, simply through years of experience matching birds to their call.  But if you need an extra hand, this new app Warblr could help.

Developed by scientists with a grant from Queen Mary University London, the app (iPhone and Android) works by identifying a 10 second recording of the birdsong and returning a list of the most likely results, with percentage scoring.

We found it very user friendly – you simply press the record button and it captures a clear recording even when the birds were at some distance in nearby trees.  The results were pretty reliable. Admittedly a common blackbird has a recognisably rich and melodic call but the result was one 100% likelihood – with a 7% chance of it being a black-headed gull!  The blue tit was 50% but it wasn’t a great recording and the wood pigeon was spot on, but guess you shouldn’t need an app for that!

Co-developer Dan Stowell said,  ‘It's really surprisingly difficult to recognise automatically any particular bird, what species it is, because a single species can make a different sound, depending on the time of day, depending on how old it is, depending on whether it is mating or not’.  As well as identifying possible birds you also get information about them.

Alternatively, the Woodland Trust and RSPB have created an audio identifier with a sample of different birdsong, so you could try to match the song to the bird that way.