Monday, June 08, 2015

How can I identify a bird from a photo or its birdcall ?

App to identify Birds from a photo (Androis and iOS and Windows PC)

Identifying faces from photos/videos with software is a technology in intense development by both top secret spy agencies as well as social networking companies like Facebook, Google and Instagram - to name a few. They have tried to identify and tag other photos of yourself with surprising accuracy(most of the time) and sometimes with hilarious ridiculousness at times.

What about making one for animals ? Or birds ?

In the 60s, Marvin Minsky assigned a couple of undergrads to spend the summer programming a computer to use a camera to identify objects in a scene. He figured they'd have the problem solved by the end of the summer. Half a century later, we're still working on it.

XKCD had a comic mentioning the difficulty in making a software app that can identify a bird in a photo compared to how easy some other things are. To the average person, it is not immediately apparent how easy some things are and how very difficult some other things are to do in software.

How can I identify a bird from its song or birdcall - Shazam for birds ?

There is an even more awesome way to identify birds that uses the birdsong to identify the bird's tweets. There are several apps which claim to do that. And there are separate apps for different regions like the British IslesAmerican and Indian versions. And other like loveBirds and twigle allow you to listen to birdsongs and details on your mobile. Even Windows mobile has a version of the app. But sadly these are not free(unless you know where to look ;) .

Many good birdwatching apps are paid, but a few like Merlin(bird photo ID), BirdsEye are free.
There are a lot more ornithology apps and even more websites for avid birders out there. Join there and post photos or birdcalls if you don't get any useful info from the apps.

Dr Dan Stowell is now working on technology that can do even more than just identify the bird. He wants to try to decode the actual relationships between them. By analysing the call of a species of zebra finch, he is close to working out which birds are in pairs - just by their birdcall.

The Warbler Guide App is more expensive but promises to be a good app for both Photo ID and Song ID of birds.

How can I identify a bird from its photo ?

Now, Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology has partnered with the Visipedia Project to develop the free website and app "Merlin".

Merlin is a Bird Identification software in progress. It can currently identify over 400 species of birds in North America and is expected to expand to a international database soon.

Visipedia (Visual Encyclopedia) is a joint project between Pietro Perona's Vision Group at Caltech and Serge Belongie's Vision Group at Cornell Tech. Merlin uses the database from eBird, which is an interational birdwatching website.

Here is the Merlin website :

Or, the Apps(which are definitely more convenient), if you prefer :

Merlin Bird ID - upload photo and mark landmarks like beak, eye and tail

This is soon going to be a PokeDex for birds -  a brilliant app that took too long to materialise.

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