Song Sleuth: Birdsong Detective By Wildlife Accoustics

"Now you can identify birdsongs in the field in realtime," chirps the ad copy from Wildlife Accoustics, Inc. "As seen in the New York Times" [Circuits column] proclaims the company's home page. A directional mic, an audio signal processing program, and a wave form matching database seem to be the major components. Reminds us a bit of MIDI sampllng software; or, the chemist's gas chromatograph curve matching database. If Grandpa never taught you to pick out the Bluejay screech from the din of suburban traffic noise, there could be some beginner birding fun here. But the nearly $400 "starting" price will make an average TreeHugger hoot like a spotted owl. For the professional ornithologist, there's no reason a handheld mic and digital recorder, even an iPOD, could not capture and then download the audio stream to accomplish the same feat, though not in "real time". Perhaps there is some redeeming factor we have overlooked. Could there be an upgrade in the wings that will teach users how to do the Chicken Dance?