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New, easier ways to become a Montana bird watcher

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Spring is in the air and birds are returning to Montana, and your smartphone can make you a better bird watcher. (FWP photo) Spring is in the air and birds are returning to Montana, and your smartphone can make you a better bird watcher. (FWP photo)
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Spring is in the air and birds are returning to Montana, and your smartphone can make you a better bird watcher.

Gary Swant’s beginning birding class teaches adults about the exciting world of bird watching, "I think going from being a birding virgin and going up, um, just basic information that really helps out i think is really, really good,” one beginning bird watcher said.

But for those not able to take a bird watching class, today's birding apps can be a wonderful way to learn about Montana’s birds.

“Apps have taken it to a whole other level actually in a number of ways. And fortunately, most of them are free where you can poke around,” said Amy Seaman with the Montana Audubon Society. “I think one of the most important things is seeing if you prefer photos or painted images.”

There are many bird apps out there both free and to purchase. While they all differ, they generally have options for picking the location and habitat type, options to search by size and color and many offer bird calls -- which is a game changer when you are trying to identify a bird in the field.

“And i think what is nice, unlike having your bird guide, when you go home after your birding or the day is over, you can still go through that app and listen to the songs and sort of practice and train,” Seaman said.

While many conservationists warn not to over play bird calls in the field, they see these birding apps as way to get people outside and inspired by Montana’s birds.

“For us it is sort of building that passion for birds and being to have people really know what is out there that they are protecting and that they be advocating for,” Seaman said.

“That’s sort of where I think the revolution has gone, because we do caution with apps you don’t want to get your head stuck inside them too much, that the real action is happening outside," she added.

Bird apps also allow citizens to report their bird sightings to help in conservation efforts.

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