There are calls and songs of birds that are easily recognizable: the energetic trill of the red-winged blackbird, the hoarse croak of the crow, the tchic-a-di-di-di of the black-capped chickadee. But the other songs? What bird modulates a delicate melody in the early morning? What funny bird sounds like an old clothesline?
There are apps that can identify birds from their songs, like Merlin Bird ID, Song Sleuth Bird Song Analyzer, BierNET, etc.
“The apps all work pretty much the same way, they compare sonograms, but Merlin Bird ID is by far the best app for identifying bird songs,” says Regroupement QuébecOiseau General Manager Jean-Sébastien Guénette. In addition, it is linked to eBird: it can tell which species are most likely to be detected for a given region, for a given time of year. »
Most other apps have to compare the song they detect to a full database of songs that are not adjusted for location and time.
The Merlin Bird ID application was developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a reference in the world of ornithology. As for eBird, it is a large database developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, an example of citizen science.
Of course, the Merlin Bird ID app isn’t perfect, but for budding birdwatchers, it’s a particularly valuable tool.
“I did some non-scientific analysis and I came up with a detectability rate of about 85% compared to what my ear hears, says Mr. Guénette. And from what the app detects, I estimate the identification success at 80-85%. »
He suggests using the app at any nature park and preferably in the morning, before 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. Or earlier, if it is very hot.
I take him at his word. I arrive at Parc Jean-Drapeau a little after 7:30 a.m., carefully avoiding the weekend of the Grand Prix automobile.
The birds are having a blast. But if you pay attention to what you hear, you realize that even in the middle of a large park, there is a racket: hammering and a saw here, a car there, a lawnmower on one side, cyclists chatting on another, an airplane on the top…
Surprisingly, the application manages to distinguish several birdsongs: a yellow warbler, an american redstart. Whoops ! I haven’t changed the language settings: it only takes me a few seconds to choose French and thus get a yellow warbler and a redstart.
There are other birds that take part in the concert, such as a northern cardinal, a red-eyed vireo and a song sparrow.
But now, I still don’t see the little feathered singers in the woods of Île Sainte-Hélène. I move discreetly along paths with little traffic (in other words, I get caught in the face of the spider’s threads stretched from one side of the path to the other).
I hear another song, a sort of peepee that goes down and up. The app tells me it’s the eastern wood pewee. Yes.
Finally, I see a small yellow flash in the trees. Ah, there he is again, a little yellow bird. I use Merlin Bird ID to identify it. The app asks me three small questions: the size of the bird (small), its dominant color(s) (yellow), the environment it is in (in a tree). And presto, the application gives me two possibilities, starting with the yellow warbler. This confirms the identification by song.
I keep listening, focusing on the differences between the Yellow Warbler and the American Redstart. So much so that I barely hear the ring-billed gull’s call and the crow’s call: the diligence doesn’t miss them.
I move to the edge of the water to try to hear new birds. Indeed, the red-winged blackbird takes up all the space, as visible as it is audible. The app alerts me to a least bittern (a cousin of the heron), but I can’t detect it.
I only see a marmot, very friendly but not very vocal.
The morning is progressing, the birds will be more discreet, it’s time to pack up.
Ah yes, for the curious: the bird that sounds like a clothesline is the blue jay!