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Birdwatching tools you should know

Two people, one with binoculars, looking and pointing into the sky
Rick Gion
Prairie Public
Birdwatchers attend the 2024 Fargo Birding Festival at Forest River Park in Fargo, North Dakota.

Whether it's watching robins in the yard, seeing an eagle soar overhead, or trying to identify a bird making that sweet call from some thick brush, birds seem to draw our interest. But many among us may not be aware of a couple aids that can help enhance our birding experiences.


One of the widely used sources of information is eBird. Birders around the world construct checklists of what, when, where, and how many birds they observe and submit their lists to eBird. All that information is available on the website.

Users can explore all observations for the year, a month, last observed, or in a particular area, such as a state or county. If you are so inclined, you can even register with eBird and submit your observations.

A quick check of recent observations for North Dakota included seven western cattle egrets near Pettibone, seven white-faced ibis in McKenzie Slough, one barred owl in Fargo’s Oak Grove Park, and a ruddy turnstone at Long Alkaline Lake in Kidder County. Each observation also lists the observer.

Merlin Bird ID

Have you even heard a bird calling from some hidden location and wondered what species was making the call? With the help of Merlin Bird ID, a free app developed by Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, you can identify that bird. Simply pressing “Sound ID” on the app will record the bird songs or calls you are hearing, and it will list the possible species making the call or calls. It is fun and quite accurate!

There is also a Bird ID Wizard where a user selects from a variety of silhouettes, as well as colors of a bird and where it was observed, and the app will produce a list of possible matches. Users can also take a photo of a bird and “Photo ID” will produce a list of possible matches. There are other aids as well, including the ability to create your own life list.

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota"and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers.
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