Mobile phone apps can do a range of things such as allowing people to take better photos and help them with navigation. Now, scientists have come up with an app that can help those who have difficulty distinguishing species of birds.
Scientists Florence Wilkinson and Dan Stowell developed an app that is capable of identifying the songs of 220 British birds.
Warblr, as the app is called, was launched on Thursday and works much like Shazam, the music app that identifies songs from a database of tracks.
Users need to get close enough to a particular bird in order to record its song then the Warblr app, which uses information from the British Trust for Ornithology(BTO) and is said to be up to 95 percent accurate, would produce a list of possible birds that are ranked by likelihood.
The app also comes with geo-location technology, which would build a map of sightings that could help researchers monitor the habitats of different species of birds. This could also help them monitor the declines, increases and migration patterns of birds.
Using the app though isn't free of qualms as writer and naturalist Stephen Moss related.
"This is not as easy as it sounds, as I discovered when I tested them out in my Somerset garden," Moss said. "Just as I pressed the record button, the bird would fall silent; or a gust of wind would blow; or one of my children would ask why I was holding my phone up against a hedge.
The makers of the app hope that it will appeal to the five million people who bird watch in the UK each year and those who are just interested in knowing the species of birds that are nearby. The scientists also hope that the app would encourage technology-obsessed young people to explore nature.
"Here at Queen Mary University of London we've been at the forefront of developing this new technology for a while now, but as a scientist you don't always get the chance to place your work directly in the hands of the general public - it's a real privilege," Stowell said. "The beauty of it is that the more people who use Warblr and submit recordings to our server, the more accurate we can train our technology to become."
The app is now available for iOS users at £3.99. Its makers said that they hope to develop an Android version of the app using the funds earned from the iPhone app.
Photo: Peter O'Connor | Flickr