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The Spirit Of IdentiFlyer

The joy of birding—some are just being introduced to it, some have been exploring it for a life. All of us share an ever-growing appreciation for the beauty, grace & value of the birds that share our planet. IdentiFyer was designed to help us enjoy birds and learn their songs, adding a whole new dimension to our outdoor activities. Through the relationship we develop, we come to know how important it is to foster and protect all birds and their habitats.

IdentiFlyer gives every backyard birder the skill to name birds. Your IdentiFlyer is different from tapes and CDs. For the first time ever, you can listen to the bird of your choice simply by pushing a button that corresponds to the bird’s name and picture. Each durable SongCard holds ten bird songs and slips easily into the player for instant play-back.

IdentiFlyer is a teaching tool and there are many ways it can be used. You can play the songs of the birds you see out your window or at your bird feeder. You can use it while studying your field guide. You can even quiz each other and play games.

The Joys of Birding by Ear

Milan G Bull, Director, Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield

Many years ago as a young lad, I was waiting impatiently in the back yard for my dad to come out of the house to take me fishing. An unseen bird, singing continuously from the top of a nearby oak, distracted me. I thought I saw some movement on a high branch, so I dug through my fishing gear for a pair of old binoculars and focused them on the spot. The most beautiful bird I had ever seen came to view. I had never dreamed that wild birds of such vivid color actually lived just outside my back door and I couldn’t recall ever hearing its beautiful song before. Shocked and delighted with my discovery, it gave my whole life a wonderful new dimension that has never left me. I will never forget my first scarlet tanager and how its lovely song opened me to a new world.

When the first recordings of songbirds were published on vinyl, I collected and played these records until they were worn and scratchy. The tape recorded versions, and now the compact disks are much better. Still, I longed for a system that would allow me to play back the individual birds of my choice without having to scan back and forth through dozens of bird songs to find what I wanted. Anyone who has searched through thirty warbler songs to find a single bird will know what I mean!

After a false start or two, my friend Terry Allen and I found the right combination of technology and engineering to produce a durable, affordable and top quality device that anyone can use to quickly and easily identify bird songs in the field. IdentiFlyer will add a new dimension to your birding experience.

Singing the Praises

Kevin Karlson, ace birder and bird photographer from Cape May, NJ, says: “Whether you are a backyard birder who simply enjoys the sweet sounds of local bird songs without putting a name to each one or a serious birder who is driven to identify every song you hear. . .bird songs are a major part of the bird watching experience”*

Dick Walton, author of The Peterson Guide Series, Birding by Ear, a Guide to Bird-Song Identification says: “. . .birders make more than 75% of their identification by ear. . .Our visual perception is relatively narrow (especially with binoculars in front of our eyes), while our ears are picking up signals from all around and above us. . .”

Serious birders have always recognized the value and necessity of identifying birds by their unique song and call notes. In many cases, birds are easier to hear than see!

Recognizing birds by visual clues is how most of us begin birding. A new bird arrives at the feeder and we grab the field guide and begin comparing our bird to the one depicted in the guide. When the field marks and plumage match up, and the range is correct, we have our bird! This, of course, depends upon how good a look we actually got at the bird and which field marks we were able to see before the bird moved or flew away. Then there is the difficulty of separating out all the look-alikes in the field guide (how could there be so many sparrows?).

Identifying birds by call is the next step in the joy of birding. Auditory clues given by the birds themselves are the most accurate and reliable means of identification. Many birds may look and act alike, but each bird has its own distinguishable song that makes its identification positive even if the bird is totally hidden! Imagine walking around your backyard and identifying dozens of birds by their song alone. It’s easier than you think!

Many know and recognize the birds around the yard and feeder, but few know their songs. Bird songs and calls are only background sounds to most people, like wind in the trees or waves along the shore. It’s much more fun to step outside and instantly recognize those back-ground sounds as cardinals, wood thrushes, bluebirds and even scarlet tanagers, without even seeing them!

*WildBird Magazine February, 1999 “Birding by Ear” by Kevin Karlson

Hows & Whys of Bird Songs

In all of the animal kingdom, nowhere has vocalization become as important and highly perfected as it has among the birds, especially those we call songbirds. On every continent, landmass, sea and ocean, birds are calling with more diversity and scale than any other living organism on earth.

Birds vocalize for a variety of reasons. Males sing during the breeding season to establish territories and attract mates. Call notes are used to keep in touch with each other. Migrating birds and shoes moving through the forest in scattered flocks make contact calls that seem to say, “Here I am, where are you?” This helps keep them together for safety and brings individuals back to the flock.

Birds generally show a seasonal variation in song that is correlated closely with the breeding season. The fullest, richest song generally occurs with the peak of Spring when the birds are fully involved with courtship, territory establishment and defense. Unmated, adult males commonly sing with much more vigor than mated birds. Singing begins to wane soon after the eggs hatch and the duties of rearing a family begin. Hormones play a big role in determining the time of year that birds sing. Studies have indicated that the increasing length of daylight, even in tropical areas where the difference is slight, triggers these hormones. Most songbirds begin their most active singing at or before dawn, taper off during midday then increase again in the low light of late afternoon.

A fun activity for “morning people” is to grab your cup of coffee and take your IdentiFlyer outside just before light on a Spring morning and try to identify the birds in the order in which they begin to sing. You will soon learn that certain species awaken and sing first and others follow in a predictable order, right down to the minute, day after day!

Keep in mind the fact that birds usually sing only in the Spring and early Summer. After the nesting season, the males stop singing and only the call notes of both sexes are generally heard. Some birds, such as crows, chickadees and some woodpeckers are better known for their calls which are characteristic at all times of the hear. Other birds, such as robins and cardinals, have beautiful songs, but only sing them during the breeding season, Spring and early Summer.

Birds alert each other to danger with alarm notes such as the “putt, putt” of the wild turkey. They scold threatening predators with calls like the “churrrr, churr” of the house wren when it spots a roosting screech owl. Birds also call to identify each other, to rally together, to space each other out in their environment, to convey information about food or enemies, to teach their offspring and to announce their emotional state.

Some birds make a variety of non -vocal sounds as well. The “drumming” of the ruffed grouse is produced by the rapid fanning of its wings as the male perches on a log. Common nighthawks are sometimes called “bull bats” due to the whirring roar of its wind feathers during courtship flights. Other birds such as hummingbirds and woodcock use their wings to make sounds as well.

Generally, larger birds have lower pitched voices than smaller birds. Owls, geese, and crows have low pitched voices, while warblers and sparrows make higher pitched sounds. Birds’ ears probably hear sounds best at the same frequency that they produce. Families of birds commonly produce sounds that are similar, probably due to physical similarities. If you listen to two or three of the thrushes available on your SongCards, you should instantly note the clear, flutelike quality that is typical of this family.

The world of birding is filled with discovery, mastery and many hours spent observing the natural world. It brings years of enjoyment. We look forward to the ways that IdentiFlyer can enhance your journey into the joy of birding by ear. Remember how important it is to honor the integrity of the world in which birds live. By honoring them, you will add new depth and pleasure to your life.

The Birth Of The IdentiFlyer Idea

Terry Allen, Inventor & Entrepreneur

“It started by letting my imagination loose as I gazed out our window at the birds at our feeder...” and the beginnings of the idea developed...
I wanted to identify birds that came to our bird feeder and by the time I found our bird book and came back to the window...the bird was gone...

The First Idea Was To Create A Window Decal

Window DecalWouldn’t it be handy to have window decals of the birds that visit our feeders? And what if they could also play the bird’s song simply by punching a button on the decal?

I pursued this dream for three years, and along the way I met an ornithologist, Miley Bull, who had been toying with a similar idea. Miley added credibility to the idea and verified its value. He selected the birds and suggested that it would be more helpful to organize the birds by habitat rather than by species. I discovered a product developer and a manufacturer of digital chip technology and they helped me perfect the idea and create working models. Then we searched for the song recordings, bird illustrations, and a design agency that could bring it all together.

Brainstorming OtherBrain-Storming Other Ideas

The idea of trying to identify birds by their songs took me in many directions. I had many “forks in the road” decisions and looking back, if I took the wrong one, the idea would have been a failure.
I “brain-stormed” several concepts:
  • A Label with a button to play the bird’s song
  • A Dial-a-Bird device
  • A pocket calculator with buttons for each bird song and a fold out flap for the bird’s picture and name

Identiflyer - Early StagesFirst Prototypes

Working with a company who specializes in digital sound devices, Duco, Inc., we came up with a few prototypes.

The first idea was to create a device with 12 buttons. Press a button and it played a bird song.
+ It would be portable.
+ It is easy to select and play a bird song.
+ You could carry it around your neck or on your wrist.
- But where do show the bird’s name?
- And it would be nice to have it’s picture.
-It would be nice to have more than 12 bird songs.

Identiflyer Pen - Early StagesThere Has To Be A Better Way

Then I came across another idea: A pen with an ad that rolled up inside the pen like a window shade...

Could we put bird pictures on the scroll along with their names? A number next to the bird would indicate what button to push.

Put the scroll inside the song player

When you wanted to play a song, pull out the scroll and select the number 1 – 12 and press the button

Bird WatchThese Ideas Might Be Better...

Another option is to put the bird’s picture and name on the wrist band and we could call it a “Bird Watch.” What a catchy name!

Wow, we are getting closer:
+ We found a way to show the bird’s picture and name.
+ We’ve combined it all in one unit.
+ It’s portable.
+ It’s got a cool name.
+ There is nothing out there on the market.

-It is limited to only 12 birds.
- What do we do to get some more birds?
- And really, why would people buy this?
- There has got to be a better way….

IdentiflyerYaKnow... Here’s Another Idea...

Duco, the company that was helping us design our products said in passing: “We make a product called “Sports-Talk” which is a talking baseball card. And we have several of these talking cards and you can slide them into the player to hear each one play.

That’s a great idea! ….Can you design a card that will have 10 birds on it?

+ We could have one device that would accept many cards and we could play unlimited bird songs.
+ Portable.
+ Low cost.
+ Unique.
+ See the birds picture, its name and hear its song all at once.

Now We Are Getting Somewhere! This Looks Really Good!

Everyone I showed this design to got excited. There was nothing else on the market that would play bird songs so easily. A bird expert said it would revolutionize the way we identify birds.

And, it did. Customers have used our IdentiFlyers to learn 16,400,000 bird songs!

What’s In A Name?

What do we call it? It deserves a new name, there is nothing like it.

These were some of the names we were considering: BirdHavior, FrequentFlyer, BirdZone, KeenBirder, BirdNotes, BirdBank, BirdLink, BirdWiser, FlyZone, BirdMan, BirdConnection, HappyBirder, BirdRush, FowlPlay, FlightPath, SongSource, PlayItByEar, BirdConnections, HeardBird, BirdNurd, IdentiFlyer, WingWonders I liked BirdWiser, but that name was too close to a well know beer. We settled on “IdentiFlyer”

Ten Years Later

TheIdentiFlyer is being used by hundreds of thousands of people to identify over 250 birds (and Frogs). Customers write to tell us why they love IdentiFlyer and how it has changed the way they relate to nature. Others say it brings families together to enjoy the camaraderie of birding. IdentiFlyer has found a growing place in educational systems and is especially enjoyed by the handicapped and shut-ins. Now everyone can gaze out a window or sit outdoors and play a bird’s song simply by pressing a button -- Just as we imagined.


Milan G Bull – Wildlife Biologist
Milan is the Director of the Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center in Milford Point, Connecticut and is founder and past member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Ornithological Association. He has served as the worldwide field trip leader to many ecologically important areas. Milan helped design IdentiFlyer’s functions, wrote the IdentiFlyer Guide, and selected the birds and songs for the SongCards.

Land Elliot—Recordist, Eastern Birds
Lang is a nature recordist, wildlife photographer, and nature writer based in Ithaca, New York. He is the author of a variety of audio guides to wildlife sounds, including the recent Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs. He also designs and packages nature books with audio compact discs. His first book and CD, Common Birds and Their Songs (1998) introduces fifty well-known North American birds. His newest book, Music of the Birds: A Celebration of Bird Song (1999) focuses on the appreciation of the songs of our native birds. For a complete list and description of Lang’s books and CDs, visit his website at

Kevin J Colver – Recordist, Western Birds
Kevin is considered one of the top nature recordists in America and has recorded over 400 species of North American birds. Hoping to broaden public appreciation for Nature and Her birds, he has produced or contributed to many nature sound CDs, CD-ROM products and movies. His extensive works are now available in a comprehensive collection, the Stokes guide to Bird Songs: Western Edition. Kevin Colver: 114 North Clark Lane, Elk Ridge, UT 84651/801-423-1810/email:

Barry Van Dusen – Illustrator
Barry is an internationally recognized wildlife artist and has illustrated a variety of natural history books and pocket guides, many in association with the Massachusetts Audubon Society. His articles and paintings have been featured in Bird Watcher’s Digest and Birder’s World magazines. In 1992, Barry was named Audubon Alliance Artist of the Year and was elected a full member of London’s Society of Wildlife Artists in 1994. His work has been exhibited regularly in the prestigious Birds in Art show (Wausau, Wisconsin) as well as in many galleries in the United States and Europe. Barry Van Dusen: 13 Radford Road, Princeton, MA 01541/978-464-5307.

Michael DiGiorgio – Illustrator
Michael is a nationally recognized artist whose painting and drawings have appeared in a variety of nature books and journals, such as Breeding Bird Atlas of Connecticut, Master’s Guide to Birding, Audubon Field Guide to Birds/Eastern and Western Regions, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Sanctuary (the Massachusetts Audubon Magazine), Audubon Magazine and Audubon Nature Yearbook. Mike has traveled throughout the West Indies and South America sketching and painting bird and plant life. His numerous trips out West have provided Mike with the opportunity to record a full range of American birdlife. Mike’s paintings have been exhibited at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia; the Northeast Birds in Art Show in Cambridge, MA; Birdscapes Art Show sponsored by the Museum of the Hudson Highland in Cornwall, NY; the Zullo Gallery in Medfield MA; the Old Lyme Arts Academy in Old Lyme, CT; and the Wesleyan University Art Gallery and Pegasus Gallery in Middletown, CT.

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