Why Merlin is My Best Friend for Identifying a Bird Species


My husband thinks every dark colored bird is a raven. When we go walking together, I can point out a crow, blackbird, hawk, even a turkey vulture, and he always responds with, “No, that’s a raven.”

Fewer things can be more frustrating than not being able to identify accurately a bird species, and my field guides don’t always get the job done. That’s why I LOVE the Cornell Lab MERLIN Photo Identifier!  It’s a perfect tool for me and for a number of reasons:

  1. It is easy to use and not overly complicated
  2. The database includes over 400 common North American bird species
  3. It is a FREE online tool

That’s why I know the difference between a crow, blackbird, hawk, turkey vulture, and even a raven. I use this tool often, especially when I’m having difficulty identifying one bird from another very similar bird species. For example, I often use MERLIN to help me identify the Downy versus the Hairy woodpecker, or the different sparrows and finches.

Merlin Screenshot 2

Designed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this tool helps beginning and intermediate bird watchers identify bird species and is able to suggest the closest match to your bird from more than 70 million sightings submitted to eBird from across the United States and Canada. I think that’s impressive.

Simply upload the photograph of your bird. Enter the location and date of your sighting. Use the cursor to point out the nose, eye, and tip of the tail. Voila’! MERLIN suggests the closest match to your bird.

Yesterday, during our walk, we saw a gorgeous raven. Lawrence thought it was a hawk this time and I decided not to correct him.

Merlin and I knew better.  😉


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