Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter! FOY Eastern Phoebe. Electronic Bird Guides

On a walk this beautiful Easter morning along an old railroad trail I saw my first Eastern Phoebe this year,

Electronic Bird Guides

The three electronic bird guides for the iPhone/iPod currently available are: the National Geographic Handheld Birds, the iBird Explorer Pro and the Sibley eGuide. They are meant for use in the field to quickly check field marks and are not for identifying a bird from scratch. I believe for most of us the illustrations, along with the audio, are the  features by which we judge them. For comparison I looked at the Snow Bunting (which I chose for no particular reason) in each guide and made screen shots of all illustrations for this particular bird.  The size of the illustrations are of course limited by screen size and the size of the headers, footers or sidebars which I did not include.

National Geographic HHB

iBird Explorer Pro includes both drawings, and photos whose number are limited by what is in their database. All of them are also available on their website.  

The Sibley eGuide shows all illustrations included in the hardcover book and provides the most complete picture of the various types of  plumage.

I have used all of them but have come to prefer the Sibley guide over the others. What clinched it for me was the completeness of the audio samples, It alone allows you to scroll through snippets of songs and calls from various locations and seasons whereas the other guides include only one representative audio sample for each species.  For example Snow Buntings:  songs #1_AK, songs #2_AK, subsong in winter flock_NY, winter flock calls #1_NY,  winter flock calls #2_NY, and harsh scold_AK

Good birding!


  1. Hi Hilke,
    very interesting post... I did not even know that Ipod had this kind of application! I still prefer my old book!!
    Happy Easter to you too and nice picture ;-)

  2. Nice photo, and great post! Eastern Phoebes winter in my area; maybe you saw one of "my" birds, who'll get to spend the summer with you!

  3. Great post.

    Its always fun when the Phoebes show up, we can then get serious about spring.

  4. Thanks for stopping by. This is a great time of the year full of anticipation. I am still waiting for migrating ducks to show up on our rivers and lakes.

  5. Because it was first to market I have been an iBird fan for some time. I understand the comparison but I have to say that what this leaves out is the entire interface. These apps should be examined for more than just illustrations. Its like you have to go deeper I feel. And in doing that the iBird app still seems to be superior to all the others. Its just so easy to use, AND it has a fantastic identification decision engine that taught me how to think like a birder.

    I sure like David Sibley's illustrations but the Sibley iPhone app GUI is just awful to use.

    I found this comparison chart that might be of help to people reading this review.

    I think what its missing is a row about the number of vocalizations which is much greater in Sibley.


  6. Thanks, Jessica, for posting the URL to the iBird comparison list. I am a fan of, and a contributor to, iBird. My emphasis was on what was important to me as birder, and to me it came down on the breadth of sound samples, very useful if you can't see the bird.


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