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National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America

National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America

The National Geographic Society's National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America is a $9.99 universal app. Its free version, Birds Lite by National Geographic, contains 70 species, compared to the 995 in the full version, but otherwise the features are identical. It's one of a series of guides from National Geographic.

The identification process in National Geographic Birds starts when you tap Species on the home screen, which then displays an alphabetical list of birds with thumbnail paintings and brief descriptions, as shown in Figure 4. To assist in identifying a bird, you can browse the species by name, or apply a series of filters for color, size (for example, smaller than a sparrow), habitat, month, region, and abundance. For an imaginary purple finch sighting, I chose Red for the color (colors include sample swatches with streak patterns), Sparrow for Size, Hedges and Shrublands for Habitat, 1 (the first month) for Month, and Common for Abundance. The results list shows thumbnail pictures with a brief description for each. My results included house finches, redpolls, and a variety of other birds, but not the purple finch. Fortunately, tapping the House Finch entry and then the Appearance tab showed pictures and links to similar species, including both the purple finch and Cassin's finch (see Figure 5).

Figure 4 National Geographic Birds' Species screen.

Figure 5 House finch and similar species listed in National Geographic Birds.

The home page also offers other useful options:

  • My Journal. Your personal record of bird sightings.
  • Lists. Your species or life lists, integrated with the species data in the app so a tap creates a basic record.
  • Quizzes. A collection of various levels of difficulty, to test your bird knowledge and identification skills.
  • Toolkit. Background information on spotting, watching, and identifying birds.
  • News. Fetches bird news and information from National Geographic sites.

National Geographic Birds, while quite usable for identification, emphasizes education a bit more clearly than the other guides do.

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