The lite version of this app includes 70 species of North American birds—more than enough to convince samplers to purchase the complete version. For many summers I’ve been wondering what kind of owl is hooting behind our house in the Maine woods. Reading about the different calls had me convinced that every species visited now and again, but being able to listen to actual calls, I think I have finally figured it out…well, narrowed it down to two possibilities, anyway. The lite version of the app is free, so be sure to try it—I think you’ll find this digital field guide as amazing as our reviewer Elizabeth Kahn did.
No longer must fledgling birders juggle a field guide, a journal, and a pen—all they need to do is download the National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America (National Geographic/IXONOS $9.99; Gr 4 Up) onto an iPad or iPhone, and voilà, they’re ready to go. The app, like the print version of the guide (2006; Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer, eds.), offers an overview of species on our continent (995 here), their appearance and behavior, as well as labeled color images and habitat and range maps. Giving each animal a voice is one of the features listeners are sure to sing about. They’ll be able to hear the caterwauling of a pair of Barred Owls, the warble of a Hermit Thrush, and the laugh of a Marbled Godwit, among hundreds of other sounds and songs.
When opening the app for the first time, a quick tutorial appears, offering readers everything they need to know to get started. On the trail, users can sort the creatures by name, family, taxonomy, color, size, habitat, month, region, and abundance. Once a bird is spotted and identified, the journal feature allows users to document the sighting, automatically identifying the location, time, date, and weather. Users have the option to add notes and/or a photo and share the event. They can also create their own lists of feathered animals to remember or can follow one of National Geographic’s lists, such as the “Birder’s Wish List” or “Favorite Backyard Birds.”
There are quizzes of various levels to take, more than two dozen up-to-date news articles about various species to read, and a toolkit that includes a glossary, information on gear and “birding ethics,” and 16 short videos. Whether visiting a park, forest, meadow, the shore, or just sitting in their backyard watching winged wildlife, viewers are sure to appreciate this extraordinary guide.—Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson, LA