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Birding just got easier. No need to page through guidebooks looking for the mystery bird you just spotted — all you need is an iPhone and the new Birdsnap app, or a digital camera and computer. Snap a picture in the app or upload an image to the Birdsnap website, click on the bird’s eye and tail, then enter the location and date where the bird was found. Sophisticated algorithms detect parts of the bird, such as the beak and the belly, then maps the bird according to “a common coordinate system from which [Birdsnap] can extract features for the identification system,” explains one of Birdsnap’s creators, computer scientist Peter Belhumeur of Columbia University.
This is similar to how facial recognition systems map features such as the nose and eyebrows to identify people, even when they’re not facing a camera head-on. After a few seconds, Birdsnap gives the user its best guess of the bird’s species. Birdsnap currently lists only North