Need Help Identifying a Bird In Your Photo? Check out this website!

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

Have you ever photographed a bird and had no idea what kind it was? Sometimes it’s easy to identify it later by looking through a bird book, and sometimes not so much. And, even when you do identify it, it’s nice to get some confirmation from other people.

Well, we’re in luck, because a team of ornithologists and computer scientists at Cornell have developed a web app called Merlin that helps you identify the bird in your photo. And, it works surprisingly well!

I was skeptical of the app at first, but it accurately identified the bird species in numerous photos of mine. I’ve seen similar apps trying to accomplish the same thing, but none of them have worked this well. And, I think it’s because this one combines what computers are good at (pattern recognition and searching) with what humans are good with and computers aren’t (determining where parts of the bird are located in the image).

Currently, Merlin can recognize about 400 of the most common bird species in North America, but it looks like they’re planning to expand this amount in the future.

Anyway, check it out at: And, be sure to bookmark it for when you need it in the future!

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steveb2About the Author: Steve Berardi is a nature photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.


  1. Just wanted to say a HUGE Thank You for the link to the Merlin site for identifying birds. It’s a big help and this must therefore be one of the most useful posts I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks again.

  2. ~❄Snowflake❄~ says:

    WOW, Steve, you just about read my mind! I have wanted, no needed, this for quite some time. I have, no let me rephrase that, I ‘had’ a bunch of pictures of birds, but had NO clue what kinds of birds they were. Not any more thanks to you AND Cornell (which is only about an hour south of where I currently live)! Thank you very much for this much-loved app! Cornell is awesome and continually awe me with the projects they do.

    I just also want to say that I have learned so very much about so many different aspects of photography since I have signed up for your newsletter a few years ago. Please keep up your much appreciated work!

  3. Cinde C says:

    This is a great site…Thank you.

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