Yellow-throated WarblerYellow-throated Warbler © Ryan Sanderson / Macaulay Library

Who's singing? Merlin Bird ID can tell you! Simply hold out your phone, tap record, and you'll get suggestions in real time, along with recordings of suggested species you can play to compare with what you're hearing to confirm the ID.

Merlin can help you learn bird sounds! Merlin uses thousands of recordings to learn the vocalizations of each bird species. Watch as suggestions appear and note the pitch and pattern of each bird singing.

Identifying birds by sound is tricky. Some birds sound very similar, and the best way to learn is to see the bird that is singing. 

A suggestion from Merlin is just the beginning. You decide if Merlin suggestions are a good match for your bird. Make sure to compare your bird with Merlin’s example sounds and species details.

Quick Links

About Sound ID

Manage Your Recordings


About Sound ID

How does Sound ID work?

Merlin identifies bird sounds using breakthroughs in machine learning technology to recognize species based on spectrograms—visual representations of sounds. For Merlin to learn to recognize a species by sound, we use audio recordings from the Macaulay Library that include a variety of sounds for each species to “train” Merlin. 

Do I need to download a bird pack for Sound ID to work?

No. Sound ID will identify birds by sound without downloading any bird packs, and will just list the names of the species it detects. If you want to see photos or information about the species, you will need to download the bird pack for the area you are using Merlin in.

I'm seeing “Unable to start recording session”—what's wrong?

If you're seeing this error, please be sure that Merlin Bird ID has permission to access your device's microphone. On iOS, go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone, then flip the toggle ON next to Merlin Bird ID. On Android, search settings at the magnifying glass icon for "Permission" to find the appropriate menu to change app permissions. If that doesn't work, please delete and reinstall Merlin.

What happens if Merlin can’t ID a bird in a recording?

Try getting closer to the bird without disturbing it and try recording again. If Merlin still doesn’t have possible matches, it could be that the species you are trying to record is not supported in Merlin. In this case, you can browse the likely species for your area in Explore Birds, listen to provided recordings, and read the identification help text to see if there are any good matches. 

Is Merlin always right?

No. Merlin shows a list of possible birds based on the songs and calls you recorded, and matches that with the birds that are likely in your area. Explore the matches provided by Merlin and compare the provided audio recordings to see if it matches your bird. Merlin is a great birding companion that suggests which species are more likely, but it relies on you to confirm what you’re hearing or seeing.

Which species can Sound ID identify? When will Sound ID be available for my region?

Sound ID is currently available for 1,000+ species. You can view a list of all species covered by Sound ID here. Sound ID will be expanded in the future to include species worldwide, but to do that, our team needs a minimum of 150 sound recordings for each species to train Merlin to recognize their sounds. You can help us add new species to Merlin by recording the birds in your area and uploading them with your eBird checklists.

How can I help expand and improve Sound ID?

Merlin Bird ID is a community-built resource, relying on the data and media collected by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world! If you live in an area not covered by Sound ID, you can best contribute by recording the songs and calls of the birds around you and uploading them to your eBird checklists.

Does it work offline? 

Yes, Merlin Bird ID works offline, so no matter how far you are from cellular service, you’ll be able to record bird sounds and get a list of possible matches. For best results, make sure you still have location services enabled even if you are offline.

Can I use Sound ID on a desktop computer? 

No, Sound ID is only available for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

Manage Your Recordings

Where are my recordings saved? Can I share my recordings with eBird and the Macaulay Library? 

Recordings are saved only on your device and are not transmitted automatically to us. You can share recordings made with Sound ID with eBird and the Macaulay Library by exporting them and adding them to your eBird checklist manually. To find out how, see our media Upload best practices

Where on my device are recordings stored?

Files are stored in the app in "My Sound Recordings". You can export or share recordings you are exploring. On Android, you can also access your recordings from the file system under Music > Merlin. This Merlin folder will contain all sound recordings made with Merlin on your device.

How do I delete a recording?

Go to "My Sound Recordings" in the main Sound ID menu. On iOS, you can swipe left on the file to delete a particular recording. Tapping a recording then opening the edit menu is another way to find a delete button. On Android, long-press a recording from the My Sound Recordings menu to delete it, or open the recording and tap the delete icon. On Android, you can also access your recordings from the file system under Music > Merlin. This Merlin folder will contain all sound recordings made with Merlin on your device. 

How long of a recording can I make or import?

Merlin Sound ID gives best results on recordings of 10 minutes or less. Once you reach that length, Merlin will pop up a notification to ask if you want to stop the recording. You can make and import recordings longer than this, but note that they might load more slowly.

Can I export the recordings I make? 

Yes, just tap the share button to export or share your recording via text or any app that supports file sharing. 

Can I import recordings made with another app? 

Yes. To identify birds in recordings made with other devices, simply tap “import” and select an audio file, and Merlin Bird ID will provide you with a list of possible birds. You can also use the share or export option in other apps to send an audio file directly to Merlin.

How can I improve my recordings? 

One of the best ways to improve the quality of your recording is to get closer to the sound you are hearing, but you’ll need to do this with care. Slowly and carefully approach the bird you want to record but be careful not to alter its behavior or cause it to leave. Also remember that you are the closest thing to the microphone, so your movements will get picked up and be louder than the bird you are trying to record. Try not to move while you are recording! Read more recording tips, or check out Bird Academy and the Macaulay Library's online course How to Record Bird Sounds.

Should I use an external microphone to record birds?  

A variety of external microphones are available specifically for smartphones and are compatible with Merlin. Most are so small that they do not make much of a difference compared to the built-in microphones on smartphones. In general, using good recording technique makes more of a difference for smartphone recordings than purchasing a small external microphone. However, if you have a shotgun microphone, a simple cable or adapter can allow you to connect it to your smartphone. These types of highly directional microphones absolutely do make a difference in recording quality. Check out our 2019 gear review for some ideas on microphone options.

What types of audio files can I import into Merlin Bird ID?  

Merlin will accept most standard type of audio files including mp3, m4a, and wav, depending on what files your phone supports. 

How do I get recordings that are on my computer to the Merlin Bird ID app? 

You can import audio from various sources on your phone.  

From Merlin Bird ID: Tap Sound ID, then “My Sound Recordings”. The import option on this screen lets you choose from a variety of sources, depending on your phone. 


From other apps: select the audio you want to open in Merlin, and find the share/export button. You should see Merlin Bird ID as a share/export option. Tap to open your file in Merlin and see ID suggestions!