About iBird
Interactive Field Guide to Birds


It's been 15 years since Apple CEO Steve Jobs walked on stage at the Macworld Expo and gave the planet the first glimpse of the iPhone–the device that flipped the world upside down. Developers saw this event as a high-water mark, a huge opportunity to build new applications based on a mobile supercomputer in your pocket. I was one of those people, and along with three talented programmers, Rick Stephens,  Philippe Furlan and James Tavakoli,  who took a leap into the nascent iPhone industry and created iBird, the app you are holding in your hand.

Q: What is iBird?
A: iBird is an iPhone/iPad app developed by my team, including Philippe Furlan, Rick Stephens, James Tavakoli, Tony Spinelli, Jane Wright, Michelle Sixta and Lisa Mease. It serves as an intelligent field guide to birds, helping users quickly identify and learn about them.

Q: How did the idea for iBird come about?
A: Back in 2002, while birdwatching on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, I had trouble identifying birds before they flew away. My printed field guide was just too unwieldly. That's when I wondered if a digital field guide on a mobile device could make bird identification faster. I realized that with a screen and a mobile computer, we could offer zoomable drawings, live bird songs, range maps, and even a search engine designed specifically for identifying birds. Nothing a 500 page book could hold a candle to.

Q: Was iBird initially developed for the iPhone?
A: No. When Rick and I started working on iBird, there were no iPhones yet. We first created a birding app called Winged Explorer for Windows Mobile Phone. It was a very difficult platform, the app didn’t sell well and I considered dropping the project. However, once I tried the iPhone in 2007, I knew it was the superior option. I started looking for an iPhone developer and found a talented one living in Yosemite, Philippe Furlan. Together, Philippe, Rick, and I transformed Winged Explorer's interface into the stunning touch interface of the iPhone. We launched iBird in early 2008.

Q: What contributed to iBird's success?
A: iBird gained significant recognition after being featured in an Apple television commercial in 2008. Steve Jobs personally selected iBird, along with two other apps, for a commercial called “We have an app for that.” This exposure led to a substantial increase in sales. Birders loved the app's ability to provide high-resolution illustrations, photos, range maps, and bird songs on a portable device. You can watch the commercial on YouTube [here].

Q: Where did you source the illustrations for iBird?
A: Finding high-quality bird drawings was a challenge during the development of Winged Explorer. Artists in America wanted at least $300 for a painting, and I needed 900+ drawings. However, I discovered talented digital artists and painters outside the United States who were skilled in using Photoshop. They, along with the guidance of Jane Wright, and our birding content experts, shepherded the art for iBird at a much more affordable cost.

Q: Were there challenges working with international artists?
A: Working with international artists did present some challenges, particularly when it came to payment. Another issue was getting the art delivered from far away places. For example one of our artists lived on a coffee plantation in the middle of India. He could only get on the Internet when the river had enough water to run the waterwheel the generator was attached to. Fortunately, the emergence of freelance services websites helped us manage remote work and send payment. To maintain quality control, I added Jane Wright to our team, a birding content expert, who provided guidance and collaborated with the international artists.

Q: How does iBird differ from a traditional guidebook?
A: One of the key features that sets iBird apart is the library of super high-resolution illustrations and the ability to zoom in on details in the illustrations using a finger gesture, which is not possible with printed books. Additionally, iBird's search engine, Percevia™, which we patented, allows users to quickly narrow down species based on selected bird topological attributes and characteristics. Additionally, Michelle Sixta expertly created detailed field mark masks, which can be layered over the illustrations.

Q: What major changes did iBird undergo?
A: In 2012, using the iPhone’s integration GPS technology, our developer James Tavakoli provided the "Birds Around Me" feature, which restricts the displayed species to those within a 25-mile radius. This greatly enhanced users' ability to narrow down the list of species. We also consolidated multiple versions of iBird into a single app,  per Apple's request. Finally, in response to the changing market, we transitioned iBird to a subscription-based model in 2022.

Q: How was it working with Apple?
A: Overall, our experience working with Apple was positive. They provided us with unique opportunities, such as early access to iPad prototypes and support in developing an iPad version of iBird. Philippe, Rick, and I collaborated closely with Apple to ensure a seamless user experience. However, there were also challenges, like the request to consolidate multiple app versions. Nonetheless, we appreciated the partnership with Apple and their role in iBird's success.

Q: Any final thoughts?
A: The journey of developing and evolving iBird has been incredibly rewarding. We are grateful for the support of our team members, including Philippe Furlan, Rick Stephens, James Tavakoli, Jane Wright, Michelle Sixta and Lisa Mease, as well as the talented artists and experts who contributed to the app's content. We continue to listen to our customers and strive to provide the best birding experience possible. Thank you to all the birders who have embraced iBird and made it a part of their birdwatching adventures.


writers Editorial Director
Jane Wright

writers Range Maps and Bird Songs
Lisa Mease, Jane Wright, Michelle Sixta and Crystal Adams

writers Image Processing & Photo Submissions Management
Michelle Sixta

writers Technical Support
Brenna Fossett

writers Writers and Ornithologists
Jane Wright, Crystal Adams, Katie Manning, Lisa Mease, Gary Owen Dick, David Lukas, Simone Whitecloud, Nataliya Kovalenko, Ashi Maruster, John Schwarz, Mary Beth Geisel, Jason St. Sauver

illustrators Illustrators
Michael Oberhofer, Chris Vest, Yury Lisyak, Irina Rud-Volga, Samira Belous, David Wenzel, Dwight Kirkland, Imran Khan, Juan Costa, Kavita Jhunihunwala, Ryan Durney, Santiago Cornejo, Noel Sirivansanti, David Bishop, Bill Callis.

patent Patent
This product is covered by U.S. Patent No. 7,363,309

design and concept Design and Concept
Mitchell Waite

design and concept Publisher
Mitch Waite Group



© Copyright 2006 - 2023, Mitch Waite Group, All Rights Reserved.

Warning: This computer program is protected by copyright law and international treaties. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this program, or any portion of it, may result in severe civil and criminal penalties, and will be prosecuted to the maximum possible under the law.


iBird™, Percevia™ and Trillity™ are trademarks of Mitch Waite Group, 3001 Bridgeway, Suite K-321, Sausalito CA 94965.


Mitch Waite Group
3001 Bridgeway, Suite K-321
Sausalito, CA 94965
United States
(415) 888-3233 phone

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