Ever see a bird and think to yourself "I wonder what kind of bird that is?" Bird books are incredible resources, usually complete with fantastic colored illustrations or photographs. But they're a bit on the bulky side, and these days, I'm not sure how many of us actually travel with physical books in tow. Instead, most everyone carries a phone. The folks at Cornell University realize that, and have created one of the neatest, more comprehensive resources for bird lovers, and it's free!

Merlin is what it's called, and you can find out all about it at the website merlin.allaboutbirds.org. What's even cooler? You can download the Merlin app on your phone at no cost, and take it with you wherever you go!

Say you see a bird that you don't recognize while you're walking in the Bangor City Forest, or maybe on the beach somewhere downeast. You'd open up your Merlin app, and answer a few questions like "what size is the bird", "what are it's main colors" and "what was it doing when you saw it." Or, if you're able to snap a photo of the bird, even better! You can submit that, too. Merlin then takes that info, along with your geographical location, and enters it into it's huge database. According to their website, Merlin taps into information provided by millions of bird watchers and customized a list of possibilities based on bird activity that's been reported in your area.

"Merlin Bird ID draws upon more than 750 million observations from the eBird citizen-science project. Browse more than 36,000 stunning images taken by top photographers. Merlin also includes more than 18,000 audio recordings from the Macaulay Library, identification tips from experts, and range maps from Birds of the World."

I've had the app on my phone for 2 days, and already identified a dozen or more birds, just in my front yard! The pictures are amazing, and the bird sounds are a really cool feature. You start to match the sounds you hear every day with the birds that make them. This was one I'd never seen before. I just entered in my info and it found it o the first try!

Screen shot of a Red-Winged Balckbird from Merlin App

It's pretty neat! Give it a try for yourself!