App helps dispel mystery of elusive bird calls

Susan Manzke
Bird enthusiasts like Susan can take the Merlin Bird ID tool outdoors thanks to the smartphone app.

When Bob and I went driving our cart out to the back of our farm we were always looking for wildlife. Sometimes we found deer and turkey. Other times we just listened to the twitter of the birds in the woods. (Identification of our local birds often came from our copy of the book, Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide by Stan Tekiela.)

Many of the birds were identifiable. We saw and heard them all over the farm. One of Bob's favorite birds was the crow. I'm not especially sure why he liked the crow, but Bob always looked up when a crow flew by chattering at him.

Another rare bird that interested both of us was the pileated woodpecker. I think we liked this bird because it is rarely seen here in our woods. But Bob got excited when we got a view of it flying from near our cart, and then across the field. Seeing it seemed extra special to us.

At about the same time I kept hearing the singing of a bird in the woods. I tried to get Bob to listen and hear it too, but he couldn't connect with it. That bird stayed in the woods and didn't show itself to us. Its call sounded pretty to me, but I couldn't place it. This was a time when I wished one of my dear friends who was into bird watching could tell me what I was hearing.

Bob repairing one of the birdfeeders he had made after raccoons had torn it apart.

I continued my quest to figure out what bird I was hearing in the woods, so I tried to describe what it sounded like to my friend. It seemed to have a bit of a trill in its call but my description wasn't very good. After multiple inquiries, the guess was that it was a Wood Thrush. I'm still not sure but that's what the bets are on as it sounds kind of like a flute.

My friend Mary stopped by this week to give me a hand with a couple of chores here. While we visited, we watched birds come to my feeder just outside my kitchen window.

Mary can identify many birds. She suggested that I add an app on my phone that would identify bird calls for me.

I looked up the free Merlin Bird ID app and immediately uploaded it to my cell phone. As soon as I was able, I walked out my door and set the app to listen. I expected it to pick up on the noisiest bird that day, a Blue Jay, but it picked up more.

Beyond my recognition, my Merlin also heard a Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, and a European Starling.

Since the app records the calls it hears, I can go back and listen again. If I don’t want to keep the recording on my phone, I can upload them to my computer, or delete them.

The Merlin ID program not only provides photos of the birds, but their wide variety of calls, helping birders to identify their feathered friends.

If you like to know more about the feathered wildlife flitting around you, I suggest you get this app. You can find it at It is connected to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology at You will find all kinds of bird information at this website. They have information for birdwatchers ranging from the beginner to the advanced.

I often check out for posts from other bird enthusiasts. You can get a lot of free information there, too.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this wonderful free app from Merlin with you today. I hope by using it you'll be able to name that elusive bird that’s right in your backyard.

Good luck and Happy Easter!

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;