Please check the FAQs below to see if they answer your question. If you don’t find an answer, please fill out the Contact Us form in the app (see slide-out menu) or this Contact Us form. You can also send an email to merlinhelp@cornell.edu

Although this first version of the Merlin app does not track a list of birds you have identified, we will be releasing an upgrade in the next few months, and we know many users would appreciate the ability to see their past identifications.

In the meanwhile, you can help make Merlin better by submitting your sightings to eBird and keep track of your list of sightings at the same time. As you probably know, Merlin uses eBird data to determine which birds are most likely in your area. eBird is the largest worldwide database of bird sightings and it is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Reporting your sightings is free and easy. eBird also keeps track of your life lists while also making your observations available to scientists and other birders. Not only will you be helping Merlin, but you’ll be helping hundreds of other science and conservation projects. Here are instructions to help you get started with eBird.

There is also a free mobile version of eBird that you can read about on the eBird Mobile app info page.

eBird Mobile is available for both Android and iOS devices.

The first thing to check is whether you have the appropriate Bird Pack installed for your region. If a common bird is not appearing, you may not have it downloaded to your phone. Open the Bird Pack screen from the menu (top left button) and make sure the pack tagged as Nearby is installed.

Merlin works by providing a list of birds that are relatively likely in your area at the current time of year. Sometimes there are too few recorded observations in eBird of a species at that particular place and time. This would be if the bird was a relative rarity for the given time and location—or if a species was newly inhabiting the area, OR if they have been there regularly, but no one has recorded the birds in eBird. You may want to try searching for a nearby location (where there is likely to be eBird data and where the birds are similar to those in your location).

We are working to improve Merlin’s functionality in these situations, and you can help make Merlin better by submitting your sightings to eBird.org and keep track of your list of sightings at the same time. As you probably know, Merlin uses eBird data to determine which birds are most likely in your area. eBird is the largest worldwide database of bird sightings and it is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Reporting your sightings is free and easy. eBird also keeps track of your life lists while also making your observations available to scientists and other birders. Not only will you be helping Merlin, but you’ll be helping hundreds of other science and conservation projects.

There is also a free mobile version of eBird that you can read about on the eBird website.

The Merlin App is free to download and use. When the App/Play Store asks for credit card information that is a standard prompt from Apple/Google to store your payment information in their system, if you haven’t given it to them. No payment will be processed for downloading Merlin. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers Merlin Bird ID free because it’s our mission to advance the understanding and protection of birds.

1) Merlin covers a limited number of the most common bird species found in North America.
There is a chance the species you encountered is not the database. You can view the complete list of species in the “Browse All Birds” feature, accessible from the slide-out menu or here.

2) Merlin may not have recognized your description. Try changing your size, color, or behavior selection.

Size: We suggest shifting your size response one to two notches from your original selection. It can be very hard to estimate the size of a bird you see.

Color: Try another combination of colors. Only enter colors that you are certain you saw. Take into account tricky lighting conditions or things that may have led you to see a color that Merlin didn’t expect.

Behavior: Choose the behavior that fits what the bird was doing for the majority of the time you spent watching it. For example, if you saw a bird make a short flight into a tree, you are more likely to find a match if you select “In trees or bushes” because that is where the bird spends more of its time.

Merlin typically matches “flying or soaring” to birds that spend much of their time in flight, such as hawks searching for prey or swallows hunting insects on the wing. If you chose this behavior and got a confusing result, try a different behavior.

Since a lot of birds spend time “on the ground,” try to give Merlin another clue—for example, if the bird also spends time in or near water, try “swimming or wading” to see if Merlin will find your bird.

3) The bird you sighted could be too rare in the area where you reported it, or there may be limited eBird observations from your area.

Merlin depends on sightings reported to eBird in order to predict likely species at a given location. In some areas, particularly rural regions, limited eBird observations may cause Merlin to miss a species that may be present at your location. You can help by visiting eBird to submit your sightings.

These flags tell you if it’s rare or unusual for the bird to be seen at the location and on the date that you selected. The same species that is common in summer might be rare in winter. Merlin knows which species are common or rare based on observations submitted to eBird, a citizen-science project that gathers observations from birders around the world.

Do you frequently find yourself off the beaten path, far from reliable internet? Merlin works offline too!

Before you go, work through one test identification using your destination location. Then, when you are offline, you can just select that stored location and Merlin will still do its magic.

We named the app “Merlin” because of its uncanny, almost magical way of guessing which bird you saw (or at least that’s the goal we’re working toward). Of course, the real magic comes from science: Merlin knows which birds are near you, based on sightings submitted by bird watchers to the eBird citizen-science project. A Merlin is also a pint-sized falcon found across the northern hemisphere. It’s a speedy, powerful, and exciting bird to watch!

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers Merlin Bird ID free because it’s our mission to advance the understanding and protection of birds. However, there are costs to improving the app and keeping it updated on ever-changing mobile platforms. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on donor support to sustain efforts like these. Providing your email address helps us achieve more mission by enabling us to share updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to support conservation. You can unsubscribe from these communications at any time.

We will never sell or give your email address to others. You are welcome to enjoy the app for a five-day trial period before confirming your email address.

Assuming that you saw the bird at your current location, granting access to your current location is the fastest way for Merlin to find out which birds are near you.

Merlin Bird ID works on Apple and Android mobile devices. This includes Apple devices with iOS 7 or newer and Android devices that run OS 4 or higher.

When this problem occurs, it is almost always due to the Sound Lock. This is a physical switch located near the volume buttons on all iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. When the orange tab is showing, the phone is in Silent Mode and Merlin cannot play bird sounds.

Note that this situation can be confusing because Apple allows some apps (including Music, Message, Phone, and Clock) to produce sounds even when in Silent Mode. The fact that other apps are producing sounds can give you the impression that sound is working. Third-party apps like Merlin cannot play sounds when the switch is in Silent Mode.

The Merlin team will periodically add photos and sounds. Please make sure you have the latest version by enabling automatic app updates on your device or manually updating the app. For a complete collection of bird sounds, we recommend purchasing the Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America. Visit: Macaulay Library Master Set for North America

Yes. Merlin allows you to enter locations in the Canada and the U.S. In remote regions of Canada there may be limited data (eBird observations) to inform Merlin’s results list, so Merlin may not be as precise or accurate in remote areas.

We are developing a web-based version of Merlin that will not require a smartphone. It’s not quite ready for prime time yet.


Bird Packs were introduced in Merlin Bird ID 1.1, and allow you to download a subset of all the content just for your region of interest. This takes up a lot less storage on your device, and lets you choose what birds are loaded on the phone. Merlin will tag the best pack for your current location as Nearby.

As of November 2016, Merlin has content for 654 species. See the full list.

From the Bird Pack list, you can delete a Bird Pack by tapping on the description, and then selecting the Delete button.

With an iPhone, you can also swipe from right to left on an installed pack to get a quick delete button. This can be useful when the pack you want to delete has an available update which hides the delete button.

One huge improvement in Merlin Bird ID is the ability to send out new content when the bird taxonomy changes. This can happen when a species is split into two species, or there is a name change. Tapping the update button will download the new info so your Merlin Bird ID app is always up to date.

We’ll keep working on adding more species. We appreciate your patience, since
“teaching” Merlin new species requires extensive data collection, testing, and troubleshooting. We’re working on the most common species first, but we’re interested to hear what species you’d like to be included the most. Please feel free to email us with suggestions.

Recent computer vision and machine learning advances, which, coupled with the growing image resources of Macaulay Library uploaded by thousands of eBird users, have allowed us to create photo identification models that run on mobile devices. These models run through thousands of images for each species, and looks for patterns that are shared between all photos of a single species. With enough images, the Photo ID tool can correctly identify images of birds in different postures, and from different angles.

The Photo ID tool will continue to improve as more images are uploaded to Macaulay Library. If you are a photographer, you can find out more about contributing your images by reading the eBird Help Page.

There are several things you can try if Photo ID isn’t giving you any suggestions that fit your photo. From the results screen, scroll down to where you see a thumbnail of your photo. Here you can check to make sure your location and date are correct, and edit them if necessary. You can also tap Edit beside your photo, which will let you crop it differently. Usually it works best if the entire bird fills the square, but sometimes it helps to pinch out a little, so the bird only takes up 1/2 of the square.

If neither of these tweaks work, you can try tapping on the “I Don’t Know” button on the Location and Date confirmation screen. This will suggest an identification without using your location and time of year to filter down the list of possibilities.

The piece of code responsible for Photo ID is just under 100 MB, and we decided that it made more sense to keep the initial download of Merlin Bird ID as small as possible. Additionally, this makes it easy for us to release updates and improvements to the Photo ID code separately from any app update, keeping the ID tools as up to date as possible.

Merlin Photo ID works on the 600+ bird species that are included in the US and Canada Bird Packs. We’ll keep working on adding more species. We appreciate your patience, since
“teaching” Merlin new species requires extensive data collection, testing, and troubleshooting.

1. Click the “App Store” icon on the home screen of your Apple device. Use the icons at the bottom of the screen to browse categories of apps. If you’re looking for free apps for your iPhone, select “Top 25” and then tap the “Top Free” tab at the top of the screen. Tap “Featured” at the bottom of the screen to see the apps the App Store is promoting for the week. If you know the name of an app, click “Search” at the bottom of the screen and type the name into the search bar that appears.

Note: You probably already have an Apple ID from when you bought your Apple device, but if not, you’ll be prompted to register. Registration, will include Apple asking for a credit card number. Merlin is free so there will not be a charge, but this step is required to set up an Apple ID for iTunes.

2. Tap the icon for any app that interests you to reach additional information about the app, including developer notes, screen shots and user ratings.

3. Select the app you’ve decided to download by tapping the button that contains the price or the word “Free.” The App Store prompts you for your Apple ID. If you don’t have one, follow the onscreen instructions to acquire one. An Apple ID is required to download apps to your Apple device.

4. Watch the download status bar that appears under the new icon on your device. Once it is complete, you can access your new app.

On some Apple devices it is automatic. The first thing to try is to follow this link on your iPhone or iPad.

If you already have the newest version, the button should say “Open.” If you need to upgrade it will say “Update.” Another thing to try is to go to the “Updates” tab in the lower right and see if Merlin is listed there. If so, you can tap the “Update” button to get the latest version.

If the app frequently quits by shutting down while you are using it, it’s possible that Merlin Bird ID was corrupted during the installation process. Please delete the version on your device and install the newest version of Merlin Bird ID from the App Store.

Yes, Merlin Bird ID will work on any iPad with iOS 7 installed, even though it is not a native iPad app. The full-screen photos look even better on iPad than iPhone!

While on your iPhone/iPad, go to this link to download the app. If you still can’t see the app, or if there is no “purchase” or “download” button, here are several possible causes.

One possibility is that you have an iPad and the App Store is only showing you iPad apps. (Note: Merlin DOES work on iPad Mini and iPad, as long as the operating system is iOS7, but it is classified as an “iPhone only” app.) If that is what’s happening, you can tap in the upper right corner of the App Store app, or iTunes App Store on your desktop, to display iPhone and iPad apps.

Another possibility is that you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch that is running an older version of the Apple operating system (iOS 5 or 6). Merlin Bird ID only works correctly on the current operating system, iOS7. If you have an older version of iOS then the App Store will not display apps that require the current operating system.

You can check your iOS version by going to Settings => General => About and looking at the version number. The version number will look something like this: 7.1.1.  If that first number is a “7” then you have iOS 7. If you have a 5 or 6, then you will need to update your iOS in order to use Merlin. To update your iOS, just go to Settings => General => Software Update.

Please check that your device can support iOS 7:

• iPhone 4
• iPhone 4S
• iPhone 5
• iPad 2
• iPad Third Generation
• iPad Fourth Generation
• iPad Mini
• iPod Touch Fifth Generation

Merlin Bird ID currently works on any Apple mobile device (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) that can run iOS 7 or newer. You will need iOS 7, or newer, in order to install the Merlin Bird ID. The following devices support iOS 7:

• iPhone 4
• iPhone 4S
• iPhone 5
• iPad 2
• iPad Third Generation
• iPad Fourth Generation
• iPad Mini
• iPod Touch Fifth Generation

Open the App Store app on your iOS device. Search for “Merlin Bird ID” in the App Store. Click on the Share button in the upper right corner. The Share options window appears with a new icon in the lower right called Gift. Tap on the Gift icon.

You’ll be prompted for your Apple ID password, and you may be required to confirm your payment type. You’ll then be asked to enter the email address of your gift recipient and a personal message if you wish to include one.

Select the date you want your gifted app to be sent and a color theme for the gift. Confirm your gift, and then tap on the Buy Gift button to send it on its merry way.

Yes. You can use Merlin Bird ID when there is no Internet connection on your mobile device. However, the app will only return accurate identification if you are using the app in the same area as when you last used Merlin when you had Internet access.

While on your Android device, click here to download the app. Tap to “Install” to complete the process.

Alternatively, on your Android device, go to the Play Store app. Tap the magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner. Type “Merlin Bird ID” into the search bar and tap on the magnifying glass in the lower right corner of the keyboard to start the search. Find “Merlin Bird ID” in the results list and then tap “Install.”

If you are able to find the app in the Play Store, it may be that your device does not support Merlin. Merlin runs on Android mobile operating systems 4 or higher. You can check for your Android operating system version by going to: Settings > About the Phone/Device.

Merlin runs on Android mobile operating systems 4 or higher. That’s Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop and Marshmallow.

Merlin Bird ID looks at your devices storage options when installing new packs. If you have an SD card with available space, Merlin will install the downloaded Bird Pack there. If there is no SD card, the Bird Pack will be installed on internal storage.