When you walk out into your yard or into the park, can you point out a tufted titmouse or a Carolina chickadee? How about a red-winged blackbird or a dark-eyed junco?
This year for my senior project I had the opportunity to intern with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to create a digital field guide for anyone interested in knowing their local birds.
Called Common Birds of Pittsburgh Parks, the guide lives on the iNaturalist app and lists 56 of the most common area bird species. It uses the convenience of technology to connect with the outdoors, making birding accessible: you don’t have to carry around a huge book to identify birds in the park. Anybody can download the free app and use the mobile guide just about anywhere.
The guide gives a concise summary of bird species' appearance, size, diet, habitat, and behavior, providing just enough information to be helpful in a simple format that makes it easy for beginner birders. The birds are also searchable by different tags such as size, color and habitat.
To get the guide:
- Download the free iNaturalist app through iTunes or through Google Play.
- Open the app and click on the "Guides" tab.
- Type “Common Birds of Pittsburgh Parks” into the search bar.
- Open the guide and tap on each bird to see more information and photos about the species -- scroll right to see photos, scroll down to read.
- Tap on the book icon in the upper right hand corner to open the menu of tags, and tap on the characteristics that match the bird you are trying to identify to narrow your search.
- Found one of the birds? You can add a sighting by clicking on the tab at the bottom labeled “Observe” and following the instructions to share!
Pro tip: Open the Parks Conservancy' profile in iNaturalist, and you'll also find guides to parks frogs, toads, trees, reptiles, mammals, and invasive plants!
If you're interested in birding, the first step is going outside! Dress for the weather and bring your phone with the iNaturalist guide, and maybe a pair of binoculars. Look for birds in areas with woodlands, meadows, or streams. These could be in one of Pittsburgh’s beautiful parks, in your backyard, or even the side of the road. The great thing about birding is that you can do it anywhere. You can even attract birds directly to your home by setting up bird feeders and bird houses and growing different kinds of plants.
Guide books can be intimidating. But iNaturalist's simplicity and mobility encourages people to engage with their environment in a new way.
Zoe Merrell is a graduating Senior at The Ellis School in Shadyside. She will be attending Smith College in the fall and plans to study Environmental Science.