Vermont-based app-maker NatureShare today announced the release of a major update to its award-winning Audubon Birds: A Field Guide to North American Birds app, essentially transforming the classic birding bible into a social network for the birder community. First published in the mid-1970s by NatureShare co-founder Andrew Stewart in alliance with the National Audubon Society, the classic works became highly-acclaimed apps from NatureShare (then Green Mountain Digital) in 2009, enhancing the guides with a range of powerful multimedia functions. Now, the app takes the next step—connecting “tens of thousands” of birding enthusiasts via the NatureShare platform, where they can create and share lists, “follow” their friend’s postings, tag favorites, add comments—and share to the wider world on Facebook with a click.

NatureShare officials say the update includes optimization for iPhone 5 and iOS 6 including native Facebook integration. The updated app is currently available for $9.99 in the Apple App Store, and the update for those who already own the app is free. The work features 820 bird species found in the U.S. and Canada with in-depth descriptions including “range maps,” information on habitats and behaviors, more than 3,200 high-quality photographs, and some eight hours of birdsongs and calls.

The update takes the next logical step in harnessing the power of digital—using the app platform not only to offer content and reach an audience, but to connect enthusiasts and facilitate community development. The social functionality enables users “to interact with other birders like never before,” says NatureShare CEO Brendan Cahill. “Now you can make sightings, comment on your friend’s postings, and survey birding activity in the community wherever you are in real time.”

The update was developed with significant input from the birding community, Cahill told PW, including customer interviews with NatureShare app users and the early users of the nature web platform. Although the Audubon app is the first of the company’s 30-plus mobile apps to integrate the NatureShare platform (which is now in a closed beta), plans are to extend the social functionality to others.

NatureShare, which develops apps for the nature and outdoor community, has designed and published more than 30 mobile apps in addition to the Audubon guides for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire,Nook, and other mobile operating systems, including Orvis Fly Fishing: The Ultimate Guide, and Sailing World: Knots and Splices.