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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Applications Folder: Merlin Bird ID

This app is literally for the birds.

While on my honeymoon this summer, my wife was caught up in birding fever.This happens every once in a while: she’ll seize upon an idea and devote all of her time and energy to it. In this case, it was trying to identify a birds during hikes we were taking in Scotland. If only, we mused at one point, there were a way of using our phones to identify them-a Shazam for birds, if you will.

Turns out, there is. Merlin Bird ID is an app by the good folks at my alma mater, Cornell University1, that’s designed for one purpose: to help you figure out what bird that is. And it delivers on that promise.

Built on top of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s extensive databases, Merlin provides a couple of options for identifying birds. You can answer a series of quick questions—the size of the bird, its colors, where you spotted it—and the app will provide you with a list that matches those criteria.…

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