New app identifies bird songs and features illustrations by David Sibley

Three views of the new app Song Sleuth.
Three views of the new Song Sleuth app.Three views of the new Song Sleuth app.

An application developed in collaboration with the author, illustrator and Bird watching Columnist David Sibley promises to be an accurate identifier of birdsong. It debuts on the iTunes Store today, February 15.

Song Sleuth allows anyone with an iPhone or iPad to record, recognize and positively identify the songs of nearly 200 species of North American birds. Its technological backbone relies on the development of wildlife survey algorithms by Wildlife Acoustics, a Boston-based company that provides bioacoustic monitoring systems to scientists, researchers and government agencies around the world.

“Song Sleuth is one of many tools that can help identify a bird,” says Sibley. “But its real benefit is helping people become better birders by familiarizing them with known bird songs in a logical and familiar way.”

App icon_2xIts software is similar in concept to that used in voice recognition technology, but is specifically tailored to the unique acoustic characteristics of birdsong.

“By combining sophisticated algorithms with our proprietary software, Song Sleuth delivers unprecedented accuracy in bird song identification,” says Ian Agranat, founder of the company.

To identify a nearby bird’s song, users simply press the record button in “Record & Identify” mode. During recording, a visual representation of the frequencies and timing of the bird’s song is shown in a real-time spectrogram on the screen.

Users complete the recording by pressing the record button again, and the app immediately reveals the three most likely birds on its “Probable Matches” screen. Users then have many options to help them make the final identification of the bird. They can play back recordings of likely matches, compare spectrograms of embedded recordings with their own recording side-by-side, or use the app’s “David Sibley Bird Reference.” It displays Sibley’s bird illustrations and descriptions as well as maps and distribution charts developed exclusively for Song Sleuth that show the likelihood of a bird being present in the user’s area at any time of year .


Once the correct bird is determined, users can tag the geotagged recording with the correct species, include personalized notes, download the audio file, or share the recording with other birders via email or messaging.

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Song Sleuth is available on the App Store for $9.99. An Android version will be available in fall 2017.

About David Sibley

David is the author of The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition (2014). Read our interview about the book. Its ID Toolkit section appears in every issue of Bird watching review.

David Sibley: How shape changes with the seasons.


David Sibley: How to distinguish the Purple Finch from the House Finch.

David Sibley: How to make peace with changes to your checklist.