Merlin Bird ID App: Frequently Asked Questions

January 9, 2014
A gorgeous Indigo Bunting. Photo by Carlos Escamilla via Birdshare.

As soon as we launched our free Merlin Bird ID app, people began asking questions such as what devices it works on, how to find it in the App Store, and how to get it running on their device. Below you’ll find answers to those very common questions. These questions have been updated to reflect our most recent release of Merlin in July 2014. You’ll also find a full list of frequently asked questions at our Merlin website.

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Where can I download Merlin Bird ID?

Download it from the App Store via this Merlin Bird ID direct link. The app is free. You will need a wi-fi connection for the download because of the app’s size.

Can I run Merlin on my computer?

Not right now, but we are working on a desktop version of Merlin for release later this year.

Can I run Merlin on my Kindle, Windows Phone, or other device?

We don’t have any plans to create versions beyond Apple, Android and the Web, but we will consider it in the future if there is enough interest. When the Web version is released, it will provide an option to access Merlin for anyone with an Internet browser.

I can’t find Merlin in the App Store (usually using iPad).

The easiest way to get the app is to click on this link from your iPad or iPhone:

The reason the app can be hard to find in the App Store, particularly for iPads, is that Merlin Bird ID is currently optimized for iPhone and iPod Touch, though it will also work on the iPad. In order to see it in App Store search results, you need to select “iPhone Only” in the left-hand drop-down list at the top of the search results page. (Here’s a screenshot.)

How do I know if I am running iOS 7?

On your iPad or iPhone, go to Settings => General => About. This screen will tell you your version number. It will look something like “7.0.4 (11B554a).” If the first number is a “7,” then you have iOS7.

To update to iOS7, go to Settings => General => Software Update and follow the instructions.

Why do you support only iOS7 and not earlier versions of iOS?

Because of changes Apple has made to App Store policies, it can be difficult and expensive to support apps for iOS 6 and older. At the Cornell Lab, we try very hard to use our limited resources wisely in support of our mission. After reviewing our options, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that we should focus on producing a high-quality app for iOS7 rather than spreading our resources to support older versions of iOS. If you are reluctant to upgrade your older device to iOS 7, we can at least tell you that several Cornell Lab staff members use Merlin Bird ID and other apps on devices as old as iPhone 4, with generally good results.

I can’t hear the sound recordings in the app.

This can be a very frustrating problem, but the good news is that it is usually an easy fix. In all of the cases we have seen so far, the problem of sound not playing has been due to the mute switch being on or the volume was turned all the way down.

The reason this can be confusing is that many built-in Apple apps such as Music, Videos, and iTunes are allowed to “ignore” the mute switch. This quirk may make it seem like sound is working for all of your other apps but not for Merlin Bird ID. Take heart: the mute switch (or the volume control) is probably the key to solving this problem.

Here’s what to do: the mute switch is an actual switch (not a button on the screen) located on the upper left side of your iPhone/iPad/iPod. If you can see orange, then the mute is turned ON, and you won’t hear sound from Merlin. Flip the switch so that you can no longer see orange and try to play a sound again. You should hear it (assuming your volume is turned up).

If you confirm that your sound is not muted by the mute switch, and still are having problems with sound, please send us an email: We’ll work with you to figure out what is happening and how to fix it.

Which species are included in Merlin Bird ID?

You’ll find a complete list of Merlin species here.

See more frequently asked questions on our Merlin website.


  • Pettibone

    Very sad that on my first generation of iPad, which is only a few years old, I cannot use Merlin. One of these days I will spring for a smart phone, and then, I guess I will be able to use it.

  • Catbird

    According to Apple support discussion forums, iPod touch devices older than iPod5 cannot be upgraded to iOS 7 due to lack of enough RAM.

  • fred

    Ah. Too bad you didn’t have it done in HTML 5 or with Phone Gap to make it available on multiple platforms at once…

  • Anne Ryan

    I do not understand why this is not available to apple computers. I do not have a smart phone and it is unlikely that i ever will. But I have been interested in birds for my whole life .

  • Dwayne Biggar

    I live in South Eastern New Brunswick, Canada, I gave merlin the option to pick an all blue bird, it won’t give me the option of Indigo Bunting or Blue Grosbeak. I tried various ways and dates. Is this something you’ll be working on?
    It’s unfortunate that’s the first thing I played with.

  • Terry Austin

    Eagerly awaiting the Android version. In the meantime, I’m working hard to get our property ready for some serious spring bird-watching with our new squirrel proof bird feeders.

  • Cathy S Adair

    I was able to update my Iphone4 in order to install the Merlin Bird ID app. “Oh my word” how wonderful it is. It has all the Birds and Ducks that are wintering here in Hendersonville, NC I have gotten great photos of the Golden Crown Kinglets and the Ruby Crown Kinglets. I haven’t counted up all the ducks I have found wintering on the lakes and marshes. Thank you so much for the free app. I am enjoying the bird app. a lot.

  • Karen Scheuermann

    This app wouldn’t load on my ipod touch, even though ibird did.

  • sara

    Please make a windows phone app

  • Dana

    How did your crew load an iOS 7 app onto their earlier iOS devices? Jailbreak?


  • Jere

    I love this app. I just wish that it stored the birds that I have identified!! :) Thanks!

  • Raptor

    I updated my iPhone OS to 7 so that Merlin ID would load. All went well until I tried to actually use Merlin to identify birds arriving at my bird feeder. Merlin says “Failed to determine location. Retry?” I followed the instructions to make sure Location Services was enabled. When I try to use Merlin by typing in my zip code, it finds the correct town and state but merely resorts back to “Failed to determine location. Retry?” This is frustrating and I would appreciate some troubleshooting suggestions. Thanks.

    • Hugh

      Hi – sorry to hear you’re having trouble with Merlin on your iPhone. Please go to this page and describe your problem on the form there. Our Merlin team will do their best to get you up and running. Thanks – Hugh

  • Hesitant

    Why does this app require access to my identity, location, photos/media/files, and Wi-Fi connection info?

  • Mary

    I have installed the android version on my phone> No sound. The calls indicate “00:00” in length.

    • Hugh

      Hi Mary – Sorry you’re having trouble. Please drop a line to our Merlin team at this link: They’ll do their best to get you up and running. Thanks and good luck! – Hugh

  • Larry P

    Please make an app for Windows Phone 8.1 … I loved it on Android, but switched phones and am missing this app greatly!!

  • Chelsea Schneiter

    I have a Microsoft Phone and I would love to have the App for my phone. I hope you have enough people asking. It is a new phone so I know it will take time but the app would be awesome! I have a large screened phone and with this app, the experience would be fabulous.

    Thanks for all you do.

  • colin

    It’s unfortunate that you haven’t come out with the web version or windows phone yet. I used to have an iPhone and this app is great. Please make it available in windows or the web soon.

  • sheilah hunter

    I have a windows 8 laptop computer and really wish to download this app. When will it be available ?

  • Laura Campbell

    My daughter brought this to my attention in early June, and I was able to use it on my computer. Love it. (It needs to recognize juveniles though, but I figure you’re growing.) I came back from a trip with some bird photos I don’t know, and now I’m unable to use it. I’m disappointed – not everyone carries an Iphone.

    [This comment has been migrated from an earlier post version by Cornell Lab staff.]

  • Hugh

    Hi Laura – If you have bird photos and a computer, try out our newest feature, a Photo ID tool: Thanks! – Hugh

  • Barbara Stewart

    HAVE introduced Merlin App to several friends who are beginning to learn birds. Merlin is very good for beginning birders and very user friendly. However as birds are changing migrating patterns. It doesn’t cover out of season birds. For example American Goldfinches have started showing up in Central AZ in the last week and they will not show up as being a possibility for this area. This throws beginners for a loop as they can’t identify the bird. Any thing that is slightly out of range cannot be found. Once the bird is the identified there is no way to enter into data base.

    [This comment has been migrated from an earlier post version by Cornell Lab staff.]

  • sheilah hunter

    So disappointed that I am unable to get the bird app. on my Windows 8 laptop computer. When will this be available ?

    [This comment has been migrated from an earlier post version by Cornell Lab staff.]