What’s that bird?

SprucegrouseNew website identifies species by your photo — Your computer just became an ornithologist.

In a breakthrough for bird watchers and the avian-curious everywhere, the Visipedia research project and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have collaborated on a nifty website that has a keen skill: it can identify hundreds of bird species by photo alone.

Called Merlin Bird Photo ID, the identifier is capable of recognizing 400 of the mostly commonly encountered birds in the United States and Canada.

“It gets the bird right in the top three results about 90 percent of the time, and it’s designed to keep improving the more people use it,” said Jessie Barry at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “That’s truly amazing, considering that the computer vision community started working on the challenge of bird identification only a few years ago.”

The process is simple. A user uploads an image of a bird and enters in when and where the photo was taken; then the user draws a box around the bird and clicks on its bill, eye, and tail.

Within seconds, presto. Merlin looks at the pixels and does some powerful artificial intelligence magic with millions of data points, then presents the most likely species, including photos and song.

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