The 5 best British birdwatching apps


Whether you're new to birdwatching or an experienced birder, there are plenty of apps that can assist and enhance your time in the field. In the modern day, a smartphone is an important tool for the birder – the era of notepads and pens has moved on to a slicker, easier way to record what you see on a daily basis.

Similarly, carrying a field guide around is often no longer necessary, with the wealth of information a bird book contains now available in app form. If you're struggling to identify a bird in the field, a few taps on your phone screen may help you work out what it is you're seen – there's no longer a need to carry around a book.

Furthermore, the recent development of AI-supported apps has made the assistance in identifying bird calls and photos possible. If you're not sure what's behind the song or call you can hear, there are apps that can suggest the answer for you – although they must be treated as a guide, rather than a full-proof answer.

And of course, receiving news of interesting birds in your local area and rarities across Britain has never been easier, with the BirdGuides app offering all the information you need. And in our top 5 best birdwatching apps in Britain, that's where we'll begin!


1. BirdGuides

The BirdGuides app is arguably Britain's best app for birdwatching. The BirdGuides app is the ultimate tool for birders interested in significant sightings at a local, regional and national scale. Whether you're the keenest of twitchers, a devout local birder or someone with a passing interest in what's being seen near you, the BirdGuides app gives you all the information you need – and much more besides. With an average rating of 4.8 stars from more than 1,600 users, the BirdGuides app provides birders with up-to-the-minute sightings of notable sightings from across Britain and Ireland.

Unrivalled accuracy of the reports means you can get regular updates on interesting birds being seen every day, as well as information on exactly when and where they were seen, where to park and how to reach or access the location. Furthermore, the filter function allows you to tailor the BirdGuides sightings service to your specific needs and get news of sightings that interest you. On top of that, push notifications can be used to send alerts to your device of any matching reports – notifying you instantly of any sightings relevant to you.

The app's search function (accessed via the magnifying glass icon in the bottom right of the screen) allows you to search the entire BirdGuides sightings database, which runs back to November 2000. A sophisticated submission form allows you to send in your sightings as quickly and accurately as possible from the field to ensure that bird news is more accurate than ever. BirdGuides offers superb value, too, with subscriptions from as little as £5 per month.

The BirdGuides app is available for both iOS and Android. How-to guides for the BirdGuides app are available online for both iOS and Android apps. You'll need a BirdGuides subscription to be able to make use of all the app's features, but new users are entitled to a one-month free trial.


2. Collins Bird Guide

Most British birdwatchers will be familiar with the Collins Bird Guide, which is widely known as the go-to field guide for British and European birders for decades. Well, these days it is available in app form – search for 'Collins Bird Guide' on either the App Store or Play Store. This app is a comprehensive resource and, priced at £14.99 on iOS, represents good value for money.

The app provides access to detailed information on 973 bird species found across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, presented in a user-friendly format. Users can effortlessly search for common species based on plumage, name or season, making bird identification a breeze. Whether you prefer reading informative text written by Lars Svensson or admiring the stunning illustrations by Dan Zetterström and Killian Mullarney, the app caters to different preferences.

Additionally, users can explore updated distribution maps from the Bird Atlas 2007-2011 and listen to a broad selection of sound recordings, enhancing the experience – and offering assistance if you're unsure on a vocalisation.

In short, this is Europe's best field guide that can now fit in your pocket, and all birders – new or experienced – should consider downloading it.


3. BirdTrack

BirdTrack is a citizen-science project operated by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) on behalf of a partnership between the BTO, the RSPB, BirdWatch Ireland, the Scottish Ornithologists' Club and the Welsh Ornithological Society.

BirdTrack allows birdwatchers to record the species and numbers of birds seen at a specified location. It acts as a log for those wishing to maintain lists of their own sightings and days out in the field. Crucially, however, data fed into BirdTrack supports species conservation at local, regional, national and international scales. It informs birdwatchers and ornithologists on migration timings and a huge volume of data is available online for the public to explore.

It is popular among British birders due to having a quick and easy interface, the ability to log details such as breeding behaviour, other wildlife (such as butterflies and mammals) seen and automatic keeping of your records, allowing you to look back at previous outings and compare numbers and dates. Furthermore, it automatically keeps your life and year lists.

The BirdTrack app is free to download and is available for iOS and Android devices.


4. Merlin Bird ID

The Merlin Bird ID app, developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is an increasingly popular tool for birdwatchers seeking assistance in bird identification. Drawing on the knowledge of experts, this app employs AI technology to aid users in identifying unfamiliar species, either by sound or photo.

Users can explore Merlin Bird ID's interface if struggling with an ID, which guides them through five simple questions or allows them to upload a photo for identification. Additionally, the app offers the innovative Sound ID feature, helping users to try and identify birds by their calls or songs.

It's a handy tool for sure, especially if you're new to birding and are not familiar with different vocalisations and plumages of species, or if you're birding abroad and dealing with a new suite of birds. However, it is important to remember that the suggested answers which Merlin Bird ID provides should be considered as a guide and not fact – it is not without the occasional mistake, especially the Sound ID feature from a British perspective, which is prone to suggesting the wrong species from time to time (for example, calling Common Chiffchaff being suggested as Common Redstart or calling European Robin being suggested as Spotted Flycatcher, and so on).


5. eBird

eBird is a comprehensive global birding app designed to help users track, organise and analyse their birdwatching data in various ways. Whether you're interested in recording the birds you see every day, reviewing your life list or examining the species you've recorded at a particular location, eBird offers flexible filtering and sorting options to meet your needs.

One of the standout features of eBird is its ability to facilitate data sharing among users. You can easily share your sightings with others and take a look at data contributed by fellow birders. Additionally, eBird allows you to compare your birding statistics with those of other users, such as site, year and life lists, fostering friendly competition and community engagement.

The hot-spots feature is popular, condensing data for one particular area or site from all users into one place. Furthermore, the media feature allows you to upload photos and sound recordings, which you can rate.

From a British perspective, it's worth noting that eBird follows Clements taxonomy. So, for now at least, British birders won't see American Herring Gull or Green-winged Teal appear on their lists as full species!

The eBird app is free to download for iOS and Android. Note that you'll need to create a Cornell Lab account before you can start using and enjoying the benefits of eBird.


Happy app-ing!

Whatever apps you chose to download to assist with your birdwatching, make sure it is available on your device and review any potential costs before pressing the download button. Happy birding!