Ask BirdGenie app who sings that song

Help for novice bird watchers | App records bird’s song and gives three likely answers

When birder Charlotte Wasylik walks out of her house near Vermilion, Alta., she can identify almost all of the birds singing, squawking and tweeting around the farm.

However, non-birders can only wish for Wasylik’s trained ear when they’re sitting in the backyard or walking through the bushes listening to the birds.

There is help for non-birders with the creation of a bird song app similar to Shazam, which is used to identify songs.

Princeton University Press is set to release its new BirdGenie app this summer to identify the 60 most common backyard birds by their songs.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Wasylik, who can identify most of the common birds of the Prairies, in-cluding many species of ducks. She has some problem with identifying all the warblers.

“For a lot of people, it will be very helpful,” she said.

Two versions of BirdGenie will initially be available. They will be able to match the 60 most common backyard birds for eastern North America and the 60 most common backyard birds for western North America.


Users can download the app on their iPhone or Android device for $2.99.

The app records the bird that is singing and gives the user three options, including the most likely match, said Robert Kirk, executive editor of the Princeton University Press’s field guides in biology, natural history and ornithology.

“It’s designed for non-bird people. Most good birders know their songs.”

The user can then play back their recording to confirm the match.

BirdGenie also provides colour photos and a three-dimensional rendering to better identify the birds. The user can attach comments, photos and track the history of their sightings in a log.

“For $2.99, it’s quite a little bundle,” said Kirk.


Many people compare the new app with Shazam, but Kirk said Shazam is much simpler. With Shazam, the music app compares exact matches of recorded songs with other exact matches.

It’s different with birds. BirdGenie must filter out the background noise and find similar recordings. Birds can have a lot of variation from squawks to tones to musical renditions, which makes finding an exact rendition extremely difficult.

“It’s really, really hard,” said Kirk.

He said the authors, Tom Stephenson and Stephen Travis Pope, are key to the app’s success. They are experts in birds and technology and have made the complicated process seem simple.

“To be honest, it’s incredibly complicated.”