National Geographic has just launched at new version of its Field Guide to Birds of North America which in printed form is one of THE references for dedicated birders. The app lets you carry around a tremendous amount of information in your pocket about the habits of birds, maps to their habitats and even recordings of their calls.
The app is not web based, so it's a big one. Really big -- 839 MB of big, so be sure before you buy and download that you have the room. Of course, this means it's available when you are out in the wild, and nowhere near a cell tower.
The app features videos of selected birds, and connects to the Internet only for the latest birding news. There are a series of filters to help you identify what you are seeing in the field, like habitat, time of year, month, color and more. The app has now added a personal journal, quizzes and a birding tool kit with tips and tricks for beginners or advanced amateurs.
One thing missing is a straight search option, which is surprising. You can get alphabetical lists of birds, or sort them any number of ways, but if you are simply looking to quickly get to information about any bird, that can't be done with a word search. I should also note that this app is really designed for the iPhone or iPod touch. On the iPad you have to scale it up, which is silly given the number of people who would like a native version for that device.
The app is US$9.99, not cheap but certainly a value for its usefulness. The paperback version of the same information lists for almost $30.00 but can be had for less online.
This app is simply brimming over with useful information and audio-visual features that take it beyond what the printed version can do. It should be a universal app so iPad users can get more benefit from it, and I think it needs better search features, but birders will be enthusiastic about the many positive aspects of this app.