Song Sleuth comes with reference material for every bird species in the app. This material includes illustrations, range maps, and descriptions of each bird's appearance and vocalizations, all provided by David Sibley. The app also includes reference recordings for many of each species' vocalizations, which can be viewed and listened to on their own or compared with other recordings.
Although Song Sleuth was designed to work well with iOS devices' built-in microphones, some users may want to use an external microphone. Starting in version 1.0.5, Song Sleuth will record audio from iOS compatible microphones connected through the headphone jack or lightning port. Note that if you plug a multi-channel audio device into the lightning port, Song Sleuth will only read audio from the first channel.
To get the most out of using an external microphone, look for mics with highly directional pickup patterns, like parabolic or shotgun microphones.
In general a clean and strong recording is best. You want the signal (bird song) to stand out above any noise, and also to be isolated from other bird sounds or other noises.
That said, modern smart phones/tablets and Song Sleuth together do a good job of picking out faint sounds, and the app is capable of identifying moderately distant sounds. Overlapping bird sounds in a chorus are definitely a challenge (but for some species that are often found in noisy flocks, e.g. Canada Goose, Common Grackle, etc, the app has been trained to recognize the flock chorus). In all cases using the Isolate Song interface to draw a tight box around the song of interest will help to isolate one sound and allow the app to work better.
Song Sleuth does not make use of an internet connection except for sending recordings to other people over email or SMS. All processing is done on the iOS device itself, and recordings are not automatically shared with anyone, including Wildlife Acoustics.
If you back up the contents of your device to iCloud, you can opt to include Song Sleuth recordings. If you accidentally delete your recordings, they can be recovered by restoring the contents of your device from a backup.
When Location Services are enabled for Song Sleuth, the app tracks your location in order to mark recordings on a map only when the app is open. Location tracking can be turned off entirely in the Settings app, under Privacy.
Yes. When used to its full potential the app will correctly identify sounds of the covered species with a high degree of accuracy. The fully automatic suggestions that pop up as soon as a recording is ended often include the correct answer, but the best results come if you take just a few seconds to highlight the target sound in the recording using filtering and trimming.
Your results will improve as you gain experience with the best ways you can assist the app, and you will be learning about bird songs at every step of the process. Some species are harder for the app to identify, and some individuals of every species are problematic. In these cases accuracy should improve as more data is added to future versions of the app.
The easiest way to transfer recordings to a computer in large numbers is via WiFi. Please see the section in the Echo Meter Touch help describing transferring of recordings for details.
If you are using Song Sleuth on an Android device, you can access recordings directly from the Android file system, in Internal shared storage > SongSleuth > Recordings.
If you are using Song Sleuth on an iOS device, you can also use iTunes to transfer recordings from your iOS device to your computer via a wired connection. Please see the video below for a demonstration of this process, or this Apple Support article for a written guide.
If you wish to use the app in a different state than it is currently set to, open the drawer by pressing on the 3 lines in the upper left corner of the app and choose the option labeled "species list" . Just under the search box it will show you the state that is currently chosen. Press that and choose the new state.
By default iOS devices will automatically update apps without any action from you. If you have disabled automatic updates, then you can, and should, update the app manually. On your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, simply click on the App Store icon, click "Updates" on the bottom right of the screen and find the Echo Meter Touch or Song Sleuth app in the list. Click "UPDATE" to the right of the app's icon.
Note that you will need to be able to connect to the internet to download the update. You may also need to know the iTunes password for the device. If you would like a visual demonstration, watch the video here.
Having a bluetooth device such as a headset or in-car microphone attached will disable the iPhone or iPad's internal microphone. Bird songs will not be recorded correctly. If you are seeing a blank screen or having other similar issues, check to see if you have Bluetooth enabled on your device and try disabling it to see if the problem goes away.
The app is listed at 388 MB. It will take up at least a little more than that as it gives the option to save all of your recordings, but recordings are easy to manage, export, and delete. And because short recordings are best for ID, it's easy to end up with 100 recordings taking up under 50 MB of space.
The app is a computer program, and is using a strictly analytical approach to sound pattern matching. This means that it can return results that seem nonsensical from our perspective. Usually this is because there is some extraneous noise in the recording, and the app will sometimes suggest either very low-pitched sounds (e.g. Mourning Dove, Human, etc) or very high-pitched sounds (e.g. Cedar Waxwing, Black-capped Chickadee, etc) when we clearly hear something else.
In other recordings there might be confusing sounds before or after the target sound. In both cases, using the Isolate Song interface will significantly improve your results. Drag the corners of the blue box to highlight a short phrase of the song you are interested, excluding noise from other areas of the frequency spectrum and from before or after the song.
- Get the clearest recording you can, with the target sound isolated from other sounds, and with a half-second or more of typical background noise at the beginning of the recording (and it works best with live birds outdoors, not so well with playback of recorded sounds indoors).
- Use the Isolate Song interface to draw a tight box around a short phrase of the song you are interested in. This filters out any extraneous noise that would otherwise confuse the app.
- Shorter recordings are actually better than long (but you can make a long recording and isolate a short section of it).
- It's a collaboration between you and the app. Don't expect perfect accuracy on the first try, and remember that the app does not attempt to identify short chips and squeaks.
- Enjoy it, learn from it, and let us know how it's working.
Song Sleuth includes auto identification capabilities and reference material for common species found in the continental US, Canada, and Alaska. Species found in Hawaii are currently not included.
Song Sleuth supports devices running iOS 10 or later and devices running Android 6 or later. The app also requires at least 1 GB of total RAM.
When headphones that include a microphone are in use, the internal microphone on the iPhone or iPad is disabled. The microphones in headphones are designed to amplify voice and reduce background sounds (such as birds). This can affect your recordings and the species ID process negatively.
The app is designed to work with live birds outdoors. A recording might sound similar to us, but it is different enough to confuse the app, and accuracy is generally lower.