Bird audio recording with an iPhone

Bird audio recording with an iPhone

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Get an app

An app will be needed to make the recording. The best free option for iPhone is the Voice Memos app.
Voice Memos app features:

  • Trim or delete parts of the recording on your phone

  • Share your recording via email, text, or cloud storage

Voice Memos Download

If you would like to upload your recording to Macaulay Library, a third-party app will be required. Some of these apps cost money but will allow you to record with the .wav format, which is a higher-quality recording that is not compressed. Also, your recordings will be limited by your cell phone’s mic. If you do not want to purchase a third-party app, this blog post will help you get a recording without spending any money. eBird will allow you to upload the .mp3, .wav, or .m4a formats to your checklists.

Voice Record Pro can record .wav and is free. Click the Apple App Store link .


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In the field


Being close to the bird is ideal. When you are ready to record, be as still as possible. Having the wind to your back is also a plus. (Recording with your phone might be impossible on windy days.) Point your phone in the direction of the bird and hit record. Try to record for at least 30 seconds, if not more. One strategy is to get your first recording that is 30 seconds or longer, then move closer to the bird. If the bird doesn’t fly away, try getting another recording. It is good practice at the end of the recording to include:

  • Your name

  • Location

  • Date and time

  • Bird species


Getting the recording to your computer

1. Click on the three dots …

1. Click on the three dots …

2. Click “Share…”

2. Click “Share…”

3. Click Mail and email it to yourself 4. Download the file to your computer

3. Click Mail and email it to yourself
4. Download the file to your computer


Download the software needed to edit your audio recording

Ocenaudio

Ocenaudio

Ocenaudio is a free software download that will allow you to edit your recording. I like to use Ocenaudio because it offers a waveform and spectrogram view.

Below I have included a video using Ocenaudio’s normalize effect. The normalize effect will increase the volume of a quiet recording, improving your chances of identifying the bird. Normalize can set the loudest part of your recording to -3 dB. Most guides out there will tell you to record in -12 dB to -6 dB range to have the best signal-to-noise ratio. If you go any higher, you risk clipping the audio which cannot be recovered. The method used in field to get the recording will make it difficult to reach that -12 dB to -6 dB range.

Before normalize effect

Before normalize effect

After normalize effect

After normalize effect


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Things to try

Place your phone in a mount that is designed to be attached to a tripod. Set the tripod by your feeders, observe the different visitors, and make note of the species with times. Compare the recording to your list. This will help you identify the birds on the audio recording. Also by having the list you can find other audio recordings of that species to compare to your recording. You can also connect an external battery pack if you want to leave your phone a bit longer.

Did you spot a bird in the photo? Let me know what you saw in the comments.

Here is a similar tripod and mount that I have for my phone. You can find many different styles on Amazon. Just the mount is available if you already own a tripod.

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SongSleuth is an app that can record birds singing and show you the most likely bird. I haven’t had time to test this app yet. I am sure it will have a slight learning curve to achieve the best results.

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