We are experts in developing species identification keys.

Over the years we have worked with various scientific institutions from all over the world to improve existing species identification keys. The keys were either developed independently by Sunbird’s biologists or in close collaboration with taxonomists and experts in the concurrent field. With new digital field guides rapidly emerging new ways of identifying taxa using all possible ways to narrow down species become essential. With ornithologists, entomologists, botanists in our team and a thorough understanding of lesser known taxa we can offer biological and taxonomical expertise most app development companies lack.

We are looking forward to discussing possible projects with you.

Case study

Developing an app from the book
Caterpillars of Eastern North America

Princeton University Press

Impressed by our apps of the “All Birds” series and their market presence, we were approached by Robert Kirk of the Princeton Field Guides & Natural History department about turning David Wagner’s field guide book “Caterpillars of Eastern North America” into a caterpillar identification app.

The specific challenge of this project was posed by the need to develop from scratch an identification key for nearly 600 caterpillar species that would be applicable by laymen as well as experts. This was made even more difficult by the fact that some species are highly variable in colouration and patterning, making the caterpillar look very different than its companion from the same species.

Below we explain how we created a stunning app from the book.


Turn a field guide book with several hundred species into an app suitable for identification purposes with an appealing user interface design

Develop a digital identification key from scratch that is understandable and deployable by layman as well as caterpillar experts and scientists

Satisfy all project partners involved regarding the transformation from physical to digital product features, the presentation of content content as well as the layout

Sunbird apps

Caterpillar Id USA East Coast

Based on David Wagner’s renowned Princeton field guide
“Caterpillars of Eastern North America”

The ultimate digital pocket guide

Design Task

A key assignment in app development is the creation of an easy-and-fun-to-use interface design which makes it attractive for users to deploy while at the same time displaying the information saught for most conveniently.

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Frame out the characteristical traits of each caterpillar species taking into consideration the requirements of experts as well as the needs of laymen

Design matching icons visualising the respective traits, being recognisable and applicable quick and easy 


Develop a structure that makes the application and its content applicable and enjoyable for everyone

The heart of the app – an advanced identification key

An app-based identification key has many advantages over a book in that it allows users to narrow down species with only a few clicks to the desired result.

In close cooperation with Prof. Wagner as the book author and caterpillar expert we developed a unique identification key.

It consists of a choice of 9 major morphological traits, including 42 sub-traits, ranging from colour combinations to body features, such as tails, knobs, and hair to make identification easy.

Results are turned out in a preclusive manner.


Superb colour images

Each of the 576 species is illustrated with up to four photos. While most of the main pictures show the full-grown caterpillar other photos present different colour variations and, for 383 species, the adult butterfly or moth as well. An abundance of information is given for each species, including taxonomy, description, occurrence, food, and additional interesting facts. All species are listed by their scientific and common names and can easily be compared by browsing according to their taxonomic classification.

What the app can also do for you

Featuring more than 1,200 superb colour images, the app is also useful for identifying caterpillars in the whole of southern Canada, parts of the Pacific Northwest, and, at a generic level, in most of the United States west of the Mississippi.

Focusing on the larger, commonly encountered caterpillars that are most popular with gardeners, naturalists, and children, the app is designed to be enjoyed by nature lovers, hikers, and families, as well as by field biologists, zoologists, and other professionals.