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Revision as of 14:47, 27 February 2016 by David Stang (Talk | contribs) (AudiOh™ Ships!)

Welcome to ZipcodeZoo

About ZipcodeZoo

ZipcodeZoo is a free, online natural history encyclopedia. ZipcodeZoo has a page for every living species, supplementing text with video, sound, and images where available. The site's 6.1 million pages include over 1.2 million photographs, 52,000 videos, 223,000 sound clips, and a 3.9 million maps describing 4.7 million species and infraspecies.

There is more to come. We hope to host over two million photos in the coming months. With pages for most species now available, we are turning our attention to improving the content of these pages.

ZipcodeZoo draws on the Catalogue of Life for its basic species list, Wikipedia and WIkispecies for some of its content, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility for its maps, Flickr and the Wikimedia Commons for many of its photos, YouTube for videos, the Taxonomicon for taxonomic information, and Xeno-canto for some of its sound recordings.

All pages are published under one of the Creative Commons licenses.


AudiOh™ Ships!

New! January 1, 2016. ZipcodeZoo today released AudiOh, an Android app that allows users to capture a bird sound and identify the species that made it.

As the Shazam® app identifies the songs you hear on your radio, AudiOh identifies the songbirds in the world around you: it matches your recording with a huge database, finds the closest matches, and tells you what bird is singing.

Although researchers have been trying to do this for years, products benefiting from their insights are usually unable to make correct identifications. identify their matching a recording with a huge reference database, finding the closest matches, and reporting the results to the user.

Accurate identification is difficult because of the great complexity and plasticity in bird song. Take a robin and ask him to sing the same song repeatedly, and every single occurrence will differ a bit from every other one. Take two robins and ask them to sing the same song, and they can't do it. Their songs unavoidably reveal their age, health, individual identity, and regional accent. The human ear may think they sound the same, but their recorded song reveals many differences.

AudiOh's design solves the problems that developers in this area have faced.

Database: Brawny and Clever

  • To ensure accuracy, a database must include all species that might occur where a recording is made. AudiOh's database covers 1,502 species in the U.S., 1,862 in North America, and 7,258 worldwide. Other products try to identify only 30-50 species.
  • To address the problems of individual and regional variation, the reference database must include many recordings of each species it will successfully identify. AudiOh draws from a database of more than 100,000 quality recordings, an average of 14 recordings per species.
  • To increase the chances of correct identification, algorithms must assume that birds most likely found where the recording is made are those most likely to have made the sound. AudiOh uses a database of 250 million observations, and focuses on birds found near the observer at the current time of year.
  • When a bird makes a song, it can choose from a number of "words" to construct "phrases", as when a chickadee sings "Chicka dee dee dee" or, in the case of greater danger, "Chicka dee dee dee dee dee". Successful song match requires a database of words or syllables, not merely a database of phrases or songs. AudiOh draws on such a reference database of millions of analyzed segments.

All of this would bury a cell phone in data as it does with one product, that uses 233 Mb on your cell phone to try to identify 50 species. AudiOh's identification database is 2.25 Gb in size, but that database is at the server, not in your cell phone. In your cell phone, AudiOh only needs 12.8 Mb.

Algorithms: Layered and Sophisticated

  • Analysis begins by segmenting into syllables, using the same algorithms that produced the reference segments in the database. Recordings often contain background noise, and the task of identifying meaningful syllables takes effort.
  • Different filters are then used to efficiently eliminate unlikely candidates. For instance, species not found near where the recording was made at the time of year it was made are first eliminated. Then segments are compared with reference segments again and again, each pass eliminating some, and looking at more detail than the previous pass.
  • Finally, the user is presented with a short list of species that might have made the sound, ordered by probability. Links to more information are provided, so that the user can review more information about each suggested singer.

The algorithms are CPU-intensive, and require far more horsepower than will be found in any smart phone. So they run at the server, near the database, in a very fast machine. AudiOh's analyzer can be extended to multiple copies of the code, running on multiple machines, as demand for AudiOh grows.

Satisfying Results

Once a list of likely singers is identified, users will want to look up any unfamiliar birds. AudiOh links seamlessly to ZipcodeZoo's 60,000 pages on birds, with info on vernacular names, identification, behavior, diet, reproduction, habitat and ecology, taxonomy, distribution, conservation, and more. On these pages of bird info you'll find 220,000 audio recordings, 104,000 photos, and 8,000 videos. With all this information, you'll be confident about whose recording you just made.

Results are often delivered faster than you can play back the recording, and along the way, you'll get status reports.

You'll also get a copy of your recording and your results, sent to your email address, so you can look at what you have with your desktop computer. Because the database, the algorithms, and the bird information all reside on servers, the part of AudiOh in the smart phone never needs updating.

We spent years developing, testing, and revising our identification algorithms, and building and rebuilding our databases. All is now ready for release, although database development continues aggressively. The result meets our goals: it is light enough to run in a cell phone, clever enough to accurately identify bird sounds, and nimble enough to do this in real time. Along the way, we hope to contribute to the science of animal sounds. Finally, you can retrieve your own copy for your Android device here. Read more

Lookup.Life Ships!

A free search tool for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone June 10, 2015. ZipcodeZoo today announced that it has made a free search app available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Lookup.Life™ provides a powerful search tool "front end" for field identification of species, using your location and clues about what you've seen. Once you've tentatively identified a plant or animal, you'll have access to more natural history information than you can find in any other source, including photos, videos, audio recordings, and interactive maps. Learn more here.

Lookup.Life includes tools to:

  • Find a plant using appearance (habit, bloom period, etc.), leaf morphology (shape, venation, margin), growth factors (hardiness zones, sunlight, etc.), and various special qualities (deer-resistant, smog-tolerant, etc.)
  • Find a bird or butterfly you've seen using info about its appearance as well as its likelihood of being found where you are.
  • List plants or animals found near you, in order of probability, and click to learn more about any species and infraspecies.
  • Learn bird songs and calls. You may select a bird of interest by scientific name or by English / French / German / Italian / Spanish common name. View or hide distribution maps, photos, and information on color, diet, and reproduction. Then play from a list of calls and songs. You may play two or more recordings at once, a trick which will hasten your learning of this bird's sound.
  • Learn the sounds of local birds. To do this, we examine our database of 249 million field observations, and determine how many are found near you. We then sort that list, and provide sounds and sonograms on the top birds in your area, drawing on our database of sounds and sonograms for most birds.
  • Track what you've seen and heard with LifeList. Your information is stored in the cloud, so you can access it from any device. Once you have the name for the plant or animal of interest, you'll be able to learn such things as common names in various languages, clues to identification, behavior, habitat, ecology, distribution, taxonomy, and conservation status. Many species descriptions include photos, videos, and audio recordings.

Download for Android here. Download for Windows Phone here. Download for iPhone,iPad, and iPod Touch here. Or use your desktop browser here.

ZipcodeZoo Offers Free Research Support for Journalists

April 28, 2015. As the world's largest encyclopedia of plants and animals[1], ZipcodeZoo.com is now seeking to become the most useful.

ZipcodeZoo today announced that it will offer free research support for journalists. Reporters, writers, and editors who are developing stories on any species of plant or animal may simply contact us, we'll do the species research, and post an expanded page for the plant or animal here.

For animals, we will likely be able to provide information about its physical description, behavior, diet, reproduction, geographic distribution, conservation status, and more. See our description of the American Robin for an example. For plants, we'll provide information about physical description, ecology, factors affecting growth (sunlight, pH, moisture, etc.), reproduction, geographic distribution, conservation status, and more. See our description of the Multiflora Rose for an example. In all cases, we'll try to track down photos, videos, and audio recordings. Learn more about this program here.


Ontario's curbs on insecticide may protect bees. Beekeepers welcomed the move by Ontario, the first North American government to curb use of seed treated with neonicotinoids, which are used to kill insects that harm crops.

Ontario, Canada's biggest producer of corn and soybeans, said that it aims to reduce by 80 percent the acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017. Fruits and vegetables need pollinators like bees to grow and a federal agency has linked bee deaths to neonicotinoids. [more...]

Working Hard

This year the Chesapeake Bay Foundation planted more than 29 million native oysters on reefs and 10,000 trees along streambanks, and gave more than 35,000 students and teachers unforgettable experiences on our rivers, streams, and Bay so that they will learn to love and protect these waters like we do. [more...]

Our Next Project: Garbage

The Plastic Age Terms of use.


ZipcodeZoo has begun its next big project: finding a way to remove the garbage, particularly plastics, from the planet. Our initial ideas include converting plastics found on land to building blocks with commercial value, that could be used in constructing housing. In the oceans, plastics might be compressed into blocks that would sink and form reefs.

We will be exploring this in the coming years. News of our progress will appear on this site. Those with ideas for how this might be done should write our webmaster, David Stang.

Today's Featured Critter: Zenaida macroura

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is a member of the dove family (Columbidae). The bird is also called the turtle dove or the American mourning dove or rain dove, and formerly was known as the Carolina pigeon or Carolina turtledove. It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds. It is also the leading gamebird, with more than 20 million birds (up to 70 million in some years) shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and for meat. Its ability to sustain its population under such pressure stems from its prolific breeding: in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods a year. Its plaintive woo-OO-oo-oo-oo call gives the bird its name. The wings can make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing. The bird is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph). Mourning doves are light grey and brown and generally muted in color. Males and females are similar in appearance. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents incubate and care for the young. Mourning doves eat almost exclusively seeds, but the young are fed crop milk by their parents.

Did You Know?

Pair of doves in late winter in Minnesota
  • Mourning doves drink by suction, without lifting or tilting their head.
  • Mourning doves lack a preen gland, and waterproof their feathers by preening, rubbing the dust from the powder-down feathers which grow throughout its plumage.
  • Mourning dovesare likely to offer a greeting when approaching another, in which both partially folded wings are raised over the back.
  • When two Mourning Doves are seen in flight, they are often a pair. When three are seen, they are sometimes an intruder, chased by a male, who is followed by his partner.
  • Pairs of doves will often be in close proximity, especially on sleeping and loafing perches, and perform allogrooming. Unpaired birds keep a greater distance from others, and do not allogroom. Allopreening focuses on the area of the body that the bird cannot reach to groom themselves: the head and upper neck. Contact in this part of the body seems to be pleasurable, whereas contact elsewhere is usually rebuffed. Allopreening helps to break and remove the sheath of new itchy pin feathers, and removes ectoparasites from this sensitive area.
  • In general, the preening, bathing, showering, greeting, stretching, territorial defense, spacing and allogrooming of Mourning Doves resemble that of Cockatiels and many other birds, and we wonder if these behaviors are common to all in the Superorder Psittacimorphae.

  1. ZipcodeZoo.com contains information about more species and infraspecies than Wikipedia, WikiSpecies, and EOL combined.