Larkwire: an Online Tool for Learning Bird Songs – Initial Review

Larkwire is a website devoted to helping birders learn bird songs. You access it from your computer or web-enabled mobile device, just like any other website (no native mobile apps yet, but they are working on it).

I haven’t used Larkwire enough to give an in-depth review and recommendation. So in this initial review, I just want to show what it’s all about and give some preliminary thoughts.

The interface is designed to look like a mobile app, and works pretty well on the computer. It’s a little different on my iPhone, but I haven’t used it enough on that device to get a feel for it there. You can browse and play any song in the collection, but the main feature of Larkwire is the games.

main screen of Larkwire

Larkwire's main screen

In the first, the “Gallery game”, you are presented with four birds from the group(s) you have chosen to focus on. The purpose of the game is to hear the difference between similar-sounding birds. The game will play a sound, and you try to match the bird. Larkwire’s sound library includes multiple tracks for each species, so you have much more than four songs to listen to in each gallery game. You can’t think “Oh, it’s already played a robin, so this has to be something else.”

Gallery game of Larkwire

Gallery game

After the round is done the site will present your results, along with a recommendation on how to proceed. Larkwire will keep track of what you have done and will even adjust to your learning pace and style.

Gallery game results in Larkwire

Gallery game results

The other game is designed to mimic the experience of being in the field. It will play a song from the chosen group(s), but without any visual aide. You indicate whether you know it or aren’t sure, and the game will display the bird for confirmation.

It’s very flexible in that you can choose how many groups you want to be included. Want to focus on buzzy-sounding warblers? Select just that group. Want more variety? Choose them all. You can also select just certain birds from amongst the any of the groups.

browse view in Larkwire

Browsing the thrushes

It’s also customizable to your experience level. You can set it to beginner, intermediate, or advanced, with each including more challenging songs.

Larkwire is not a free site. You can demo it for free, but you have to buy “songpacks” in order to really use the site. The smallest of the packs contains the 25 most common land birds for your area and costs $3.95. If you want all the sounds (344 species in total), it’s $24.95. And there are a couple of choices in between.

Honestly, I wasn’t too sure how well Larkwire would work when I first tried it out. But after using it for a bit, I think it has a lot of promise. After an intensive session of robin-like songs, for example, I found that it became progressively easier to differentiate between the robin and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with it. I’ve always had problems with some warbler songs, so I think I’ll focus on them next. After all, spring is approaching…

Posted by Grant McCreary on February 9th, 2012.

Category: Quick Picks

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