September 2018

iBird Lite

For the beginning to intermediate birder, iBird Lite (free from Apple App Store[1], or Google Play[2]) offers an introduction to what a mobile application can do to expand our awareness and appreciation for birdwatching. And a chance to see what a downloaded database of birding information can mean while in the field, far from a reliable cell data connection.

Unlike many of the other birding apps around, the iBird family of apps uses illustrations rather than photographs, which significantly reduces the memory storage space required on a smart phone or tablet to download it, and makes it possible to concentrate on specific important features of a bird, rather than a full portrait image, no matter how well shot.

iBird Lite is the free, "sampler" version of the full iBird app, providing complete entries for up to 50 commonly-seen birds in North America. It can be further customized for the user's region, even limited down to nearby birds, reducing confusion and clutter with species very unlikely to be seen.

To start, clicking on an entry - try Acorn Woodpecker - opens a wealth of info, including detailed drawings with optional field marks, plus links for range, sounds, etc. Closing the Acorn Woodpecker page, notice the Set View/Sort Mode link at the top of the Browse page. This lets you choose how the species will be listed, and even how the specific information will be presented to you. Experiment and see the options; "Thumbnails" is the default setting.

Want to see only local birds? You can choose from the Search link at the upper right to only be shown "Birds Around Me", which will open a map to your GPS location if you're online. If not, you can select California from the Location menu. Using the map allows you to pick a radius from your precise location from 25 to 150 miles.

The Search options include an astonishing array of choices, including Size, Shape, and even Belly Pattern and Song Pattern. It's fun just to go through the available search filters, either for initial learning or an engaging review of what you think you know.

Returning to the opening Browse screen, click on the standard three-line mobile menu icon, and see more ways to use the app, and even a second method of accessing the Search filters. The Bird Help Forum[3] link opens into the WhatBird Forum web pages, including free personalized bird ID help for North American birds, and photo sharing and discussion with a free log-in account. The desktop version of the Forum can also be accessed through the WhatBird website discussed in our June 2018 Article[4].

Be warned that nearly every screen of the iBird Lite app except for the linked Forum has ads for the paid app, which is, after all, what funds the free version.

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