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Merlin Bird Photo ID

Melanie Colón

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From: The Ornithological Newsletter— Number 227, August 2015 | Cheryl L. Trine, Editor


WHAT’S THAT BIRD? Snap a Photo. Now Computers Can ID the Bird – In a breakthrough for computer vision and for bird watching, researchers and bird enthusiasts have enabled computers to achieve a task that stumps most humans—identifying hundreds of bird species pictured in photos.  Called Merlin Bird Photo ID, the identifier is capable of recognizing 400 of the mostly commonly encountered birds in the United States and Canada.  The bird photo identifier, developed by the Visipedia research project in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is available for free at http://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/photo-id   “It gets the bird right in the top three results about 90% of the time, and it’s designed to keep improving the more people use it,” said Jessie Barry at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “That’s truly amazing, considering that the computer vision community started working on the challenge of bird identification only a few years ago.”  To see if Merlin can identify the bird in your photo, you upload an image and tell Merlin where and when you took it. To orient Merlin, you draw a box around the bird and click on its bill, eye, and tail.  Merlin also asks you to describe the color, size, and behavior of the bird you saw.  Merlin does the rest.  Merlin’s success relies on collaboration between computers and humans. The computer learns to recognize each species from tens of thousands of images identified and labeled by bird enthusiasts. It also taps in to more than 70 million sightings recorded by birders in the eBird.org database, narrowing its search to the species found at the location and time of year when the photo was taken.

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