Published April 17, 2024

Free identifier apps for plants, animals, bugs, and more 

Free identifier apps for plants, animals and insects

Whether you're an avid hiker, a curious gardener, or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll through the park, encountering an unfamiliar plant or animal can spark a thirst for knowledge. And if you’re anything like me, uncovering its identity can become a near obsession. 

Over the years, I have come across tons of amazing apps to help me discover more about what I’ve found. While some apps cost money, many offer great tools and functionality at no extra cost. 

So, let's explore some fantastic apps for identifying plants, birds, bugs and other animals with just your smartphone.


Free apps for identifying plants and animals 

If you are looking for a general discovery app, these options are great for identifying everything from insects to trees and beyond. 

Google Lens 

Google Lens is a visual search tool that you can use to search the web with your camera or a photo. It uses image recognition technology to understand what you're looking at and then provides you with relevant information.

While it was developed for any visual query you may have, it can be a helpful tool in identifying and learning about plants and animals. 

Seek by iNaturalist 

Seek boasts a user-friendly interface. Just “scan” the plant or animal with your camera, and the app will use AI to identify the class, order and species. With each correct answer, Seek narrows down the possibilities, revealing the identity of your query. 

This app is perfect for beginners and anyone who loves a little gamification with fun challenges and achievement tracking. It's a fantastic way to learn about plants and have some fun while you're at it.


Seek is primarily focused on identification. But the parent app, iNaturalist, takes identification a step further by fostering a sense of community and shared appreciation for the natural world. 

Using the app, you can track animals you have observed, view, identify others observations, partake in conversations about species and identification, get input from fellow observers and learn about animals from around the world. 

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Apps for bird identification 

Birding is one of the fastest growing hobbies in North America. So it should come as no surprise that there is a category of identifier apps specifically for birds with tons of free options. Here are some of the big ones: 


Ever heard a bird call but had no luck locating the source? BirdNET is a great option for identifying birds based on their vocalizations, which can be particularly helpful with shy or elusive birds.

Simply upload a recording of a bird's song or call, and BirdNET will use deep learning algorithms to generate a list of possible matches. 


This is my go-to app for bird identification and is perfect for both novice and experienced birders!

Developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Merlin is a powerhouse of bird knowledge. Using the app, you can identify birds using one of three different methods: sound (powered by BirdNET), photo or through a simple questionnaire. 

Merlin also boasts a massive database of bird sightings for those interested in learning about species around the world. 

Audubon Field Guide App

This comprehensive app by the National Audubon Society is a digital field guide for North American birds. With beautiful photos, detailed descriptions, and range maps for over 800 species, Audubon is a fantastic resource for learning about and identifying birds in your area. 

The app also allows you to keep track of your sightings and listen to bird calls.

eBird by Cornell Lab

While not strictly an identification app, eBird is a powerful tool for birders of all levels. This citizen science app allows you to submit your bird sightings, contributing to valuable scientific data. eBird also provides real-time checklists for your area, helping you discover what birds have been spotted recently.

Free identifier apps for butterflies and other bugs 

Ever encountered a creepy crawly and wondered what it was? You don't need to be an entomologist to figure it out these days. With the help of your smartphone and a free app, you can become a bug identification whiz in seconds. 

Seek and Google Lens are excellent options. But if you’re looking for an app specific to bugs, here is a great option to consider:

Picture Insect 

This popular app uses AI technology to analyze photos you take of insects or upload from your gallery. With a vast database of over 4,000 species, Picture Insect can identify a wide range of bugs, from butterflies and beetles to spiders and moths. The app provides detailed information about each insect, including its name, characteristics, and interesting facts.

PRO TIP: When you open this app, it will try to sell you on a free trial. If you close this window, you can use parts of the app for free. 


Free plant identifier apps 

Here are a few free options to consider alongside Seek, iNaturalist, and Google Lens for identifying plants:


This app is my go-to plant app! It has an amazing image recognition engine and is really easy to use. Simply snap a clear photo and let PlantNet work its magic. Using its massive image database, populated by millions of plant images, it will suggest possible matches. 

Best of all, by submitting your observations (with location data if you're comfortable), you contribute valuable real-world data to science projects focused on plant diversity and distribution. 


This app boasts an impressive 98% accuracy rate for plant identification. Similar to PlantNet, PictureThis utilizes image recognition technology to analyze your photo. But PictureThis goes a step further, offering additional features like plant profiles with information on care requirements, name stories, economic value, and distribution maps. For an additional fee you can get access to even more information, including health checks and tips and a reminder system to ensure you never forget to care for your favorite houseplants or tend to your garden on schedule.

PRO TIP: Like Picture Insect, you can close the free trial window to use parts of the app for free. 

Plant Parent 

Plant Parent is similar to PictureThis (and made by the same developers) but focuses on houseplants and offers up care information with the free version. That means it won’t just identify plants, it will provide you with assistance growing them. 

From watering reminders and light level readings to identification and troubleshooting sick plants, this app equips you with the knowledge to become a plant pro. 

PRO TIP: Like PictureThis, you can close the free trial window to use parts of the app for free. 


With its helpful features and extensive plant database, Planta empowers you to become a confident gardener.

Similar to Plant Parent, Planta helps you care for your plants. Simply add your plants, and Planta creates personalized watering schedules, misting reminders, and even alerts you when it's time to fertilize or repot.  

Not sure what kind of leafy friend you have? No problem! Snap a picture with Planta's plant identification tool and get specific care instructions. 

Other Apps To Check Out

This are just some of the free identifier apps you can check out. Depending on your interests, you can also find great options for fish, mushrooms, rocks and more.

It’s Time To Start Exploring! 

Gone are the days of carrying around field guides! From Seek’s gamified experience to Merlin’s in-depth bird knowledge, there’s an app to suit every curiosity and interest. 

So, the next time you encounter an unfamiliar plant, animal, or insect, don’t hesitate to pull out your phone and embark on a journey of discovery! With a little help from technology, you can become a naturalist in no time. 

Happy exploring!

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