For the days when hauling around a tome for identifying birds just won’t do, Audubon comes to the rescue with its new online guide to North American birds, available for $3.99 on the iPhone, Android, iPad, NOOK or Kindle through the Audubon Birds app. One screen pretty much holds it all, displaying information about birding, conservation, even avian anatomy. The guide categorizes more than 800 species by family, common name, or general shape, allowing users to pick the most appropriate identification route.
The third display option is particularly innovative. This category directs users to the quick guide, offering the ability to search the stout, slim, long-legged, and sleek-beaked contours of many birds. It presents a gallery of shapes: There are duck-like birds (think ducks, grebes, loons, pelicans, and swans), perching birds (groups like larks, flycatchers, thrushes, and wrens), or my favorite, chicken-like marsh birds (encompassing rails, coots, jacanas, and gallinules). Others include those cut like sandpipers, birds with the arrow-like anatomy of swallows, and those that feature the same, watchful upright stance as a hawk.
The guide’s homepage also lists aspects of birding beyond identification, from the most basic—such as ‘How to Bird’—to the more technical aspects of classification as well as bird plumage and molting habits. Everything is explained in straightforward terms, making this tool usable for birders of any skill level.
There are tips for beginning birders, and guidelines for selecting the perfect set of binoculars. There’s even a section that describes “stealth”—what any birder intent on spying skittish creatures must master. For the more advanced users, one link opens up a colorful and detailed display about bird anatomy and some of the more technical aspects of this hobby.
Importantly, one section of the guide is dedicated to conservation and endangered species. It includes a list of struggling birds, the threats they face, the changes wrought by climate change, and ways that users can help.
Perhaps best of all, the new Audubon guide lets birders record and then share sightings with others on the lookout for avian beauties. That’s a win for birds and bird lovers alike.
Guide: Online Guide to North American Birds
Available: National Audubon Society website, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Android, NOOK
What it includes: 800 bird species from 74 families
Good to check out: The section on ‘How to Bird’