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Merlin app’s patterns of errors

Merlin app’s patterns of errors

By {authorlink} – 4:35 pm

Many of us recognize that the Merlin app’s “Sound ID” makes mistakes.  Certain errors occur regularly.  It might be useful, especially for beginning birders, to be aware of common Merlin errors. Here are a few that I’ve encountered or heard about from others.

     Vesper Sparrow: Merlin shows it in places where it is unlikely, e.g, my yard and elsewhere in my residential Point Loma neighborhood, where none are recorded in the SD Bird Atlas or on eBird.

     Peregrine Falcon: Merlin has shown “Peregrine Falcon” a few times when I didn’t see one (but figured I could have missed it). Then, one day, as a Western Gull flew over my house, loudly calling its typical Western Gull squeally noise, Merlin said “Peregrine Falcon.”

    Black-necked Stilt: A large flock of birds noisily lifted up from the Robb Field mudflats with no Black-necked Stilt in sight. Merlin showed the stilt and did not show any other birds, i.e., those that were actually making the noise.  (I’ve since forgotten what they were.)

     Red-winged Blackbirds: Merlin reports them when we did not see or hear any and they are somewhat unlikely.

     Pine Siskins: A friend says Merlin reports them often, and only Lesser Goldfinches are in her yard.

    California Towhee: A Cal Towhee is usually a Cal Towhee, but Merlin announced a Cal Towhee in residential Coronado where only one has been recorded (on eBird).  The actual bird turned out to be a Hooded Warbler!

     On the other hand, a friend told me Merlin identified as a Grace’s Warbler a bird she heard but couldn’t find in her yard. She looked up the range map and concluded it was a Merlin error. She hadn’t been aware that there was a Grace’s Warbler in our neighborhood at the time. So the point is to be careful, not to reject everything suspicious.

Sara Baase Mayers
Point Loma (San Diego)