App use during birding and nature tours

Why you should encourage the use of apps during your birding tour

Posted by Ilse on Jul 29, 2015

Can you recall the first time you guided a birding tour? Or better yet, the first day you went birding yourself? Chances are high that you left the house with at least one or more paper guidebooks in your backpack.

The uprise of smartphones with mobile internet has influenced birding. Now many birders are making use of mobile apps to identify birds and track migrations.


As a birding tour operator, how should you react to the uprise of mobile apps in the birding scene? Focus on the bird in your hand or set it free and adapt your tour to the trend?

Some would argue that birding is an escape and technology is a distraction in the natural environment. Leave your phones in your pocket please.  However, we think you should encourage people to use their phone during your bird watching tour and here's why:

  • It makes your tour more accessible

Back in the day, you would start birding by first memorizing all the bird species that you expect to come across. It required a lot of patience and an excellent memory. Mobile apps now opened the door for many beginning birders. It also makes it easier to go birding in a foreign place where you are not yet familiar with the local birds species.

  • It makes your tour more appealing

Introducing technology to your birding trip, will help you appeal to a wider audience. Especially the younger generation will feel more involved when you motivate them to use their mobile phone during your trip.

  • It makes your tour more informative

Unless you guide people one-on-one, it is very difficult to share your expertise with everyone. An app will instantly provide people with background information as soon as they identify a bird. This allows you to focus your attention to helping customers identify more birds in less time.

TrekkSoft_Birders_House_SparrowTo sum up :

If integrated into your tour properly, birding apps become an educational addition to to the experience and not a distraction. 

Mobile apps allow you to reach a whole new target market for your birding tours. It's an easy and inexpensive way to modernize your business, so we'd advise you to seize the opportunity with both hands.


Note: Please be aware that we do not recommend to use the recorded bird calls to elicit responses from wild birds. It has a negative effect on wild bird populations, especially during nesting and breeding season. Instead, let your guests listen to the sounds inside to get better at identifying the bird calls outside. 

But which apps to use? Here are a few of our own personal favourites:


Merlin Bird IDScreen_Shot_2015-07-28_at_10.12.24

by Cornell University
iOS and Android: free

We adore the simplicity of the Merlin Bird ID app. Answer 5 easy questions about the bird you spotted and the app will come up with a list of possible matches.

Merlin Bird ID includes more than 2.000 clear pictures and 1.000 audio recordings from the Macaulay Library. The app draws upon more than 70 million observations from the eBird citizen-science project. Only downside - it's solely designed to identify North America's most common birds.


iPhone-eBird-270x543eBird Mobile app

by Birds In The Hand, LLC
iOS and Android: free

Say goodbye to the struggle of papers, pencils and clipboards while birding. Your customers can simply download the eBird mobile app and start logging. The app works around the world and is available in different languages.

It does require an account on eBird, which is justified by the fact that each bird reporting is added to one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity database. In other words, your birding tours will start to generate value for the entire birding community.


BirdsEye Bird Finding GuideBEA-bird-list

by Birds In The Hand, LLC
iOS and Android: free + add ons

"BirdsEye is the best invention for birding since binoculars,"says Kenn Kaufman, renowned birder and author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America.

You can download BirdsEye for free in the app store, but you might want to opt for a one of their geographical packages to truly benefit from this app. The packages cost between $1,50 to $2,50 per month and all include a 30-day free trial.

In return you get an incredibly rich database, all recent sightings near you and a connection to your eBird year of life list.

Tell us what you think

We want to hear your thoughts about integrating mobile apps in birding tours. So feel free as a bird to leave your comments below.


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Written by Ilse

Ilse works as inbound marketing strategist for TrekkSoft in Interlaken. She enjoys going for a morning swim in the lake, an afternoon hike in the mountains, and a spontaneous road trip in the weekend.

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