Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bird ID Games

In the last few weeks, I have heard a profusion of birdsong, more than I had heard since the end of spring last year. More and more birds will be passing through over the next three months, and each species will have its own songs and identification challenges. Luckily, there are resources online to help birders practice sorting out these challenges before heading out to go birding.

The Virtual Birder has been around for a long time, longer, in fact, than I have been birding. I remember playing the games there and thinking "why don't I see birds like that?" The games there helped make my transition into actual birding easier, because some of the knowledge was already in my head. Some useful parts include:

  • On Location: Full tours of top birding sites around North America. This service requires a fee to activate the binoculars. Each stop includes an extensive FREE "Backgrounder."
  • Birding Breaks: Shorter versions of the On Location trips, and FREE. Visit Mount Auburn Cemetery to bone up on spring warblers.
  • Bird Matcher: Match songs, sonograms, and images. More advanced matching games require a fee, but the basic ones are FREE.
  • Bird Song Matcher: Match songs with images with novice and advanced levels.
Patuxent, the bird research center in suburban Maryland, has a bird quiz with different levels based on photographs, songs, and range maps. If you play this, it is better to reload the quiz page to bring up the next question rather than to click on "next question." The latter seems to be a bit buggy. Note: Photographs and song samples can come from anywhere in North America, not just a focused area.

Whatbird is developing a Flash game for identifying birds based on sounds. Right now it is a very basic game designed for children, but the developer promises more advanced levels for adults in the near future.

There is also a fairly basic song matching game from Ecology Explorers. Drag the bird making the call into a box.

Of course, the best way to learn is to go out to parks and refuges and watch and listen. But if you cannot get out, some online games might be the next best thing.