how to make an audubon bird call

A bird call may not be on everyone’s list of well-known Connecticut products, but perhaps it should be. Like most of the better-known manufactures on the list of Connecticut products, the Audubon Bird Call, invented by Connecticutan Roger Eddy in 1952, could be found on most continents, according to decades’ worth of sales records.

Where many Connecticut-made products have pushed the boundaries of technology, Eddy’s bird call embodied Connecticut genius in its simplicity. Birchwood, pewter (now replaced by a lead-free zinc alloy), a small screw, red paint, and a bit of pine rosin are all the materials needed to make and maintain this handy device. The call’s sound is produced by twisting the cast-metal plug against the wooden barrel. While the resulting sound does not mimic a particular bird species, it attracts birds by convincing them that there are other birds in the immediate area.

In 1951 Newington’s Roger Eddy, Yale-educated descendant of one of Connecticut’s earliest families, and his wife Deborah took their two young daughters to live in Italy for six months. The couple had met there during World War II when Roger served with the 10th Mountain Division and Deb worked for the Red Cross. It was here he first noticed hunters using small bird calls to attract songbirds. He quickly became fascinated with these small hand-held calls and learned as much as he could from the hunters who crafted and used them.

Returning home with a collection of Italian bird calls, Eddy wondered if the National Audubon Society (state organizations beginning in 1896 came together to form the national society in 1901; Connecticut founded a chapter in 1898) might be interested in a story about them for its magazine. While the Audubon Society was not interested in any story about hunting songbirds using bird calls, it did express an interest in a bird call for bird-watching purposes. Eddy developed a model he dubbed the Audubon Bird Call in honor of the national society.

Despite a slow start to the new business, during which Roger pounded the pavement across New England, Yankee-peddler-style, selling his invention to gift shops, pet shops, and sporting goods stores, within a year his deceptively simple call began to take off, with sales at times outpacing his ability to produce them. He subcontracted with others to manufacture the wood barrel and metal plug, but finishing and final assembly took place in the living room of his house. Family and friends helped out. In June 1953 Eddy described the product’s phenomenonal success in a Saturday Evening Post article, which sparked even greater interest in the device. In time a small paid staff of assemblers took some of the burden off Eddy’s family and friends..

Through the ensuing decades Audubon Bird Calls were produced in a workshop and office attached to a dairy barn on Eddy Farm. Kyle Conard, who worked for Eddy for more than 18 years, remembers filling bird call orders for distributors and individuals from Cape Cod to Amsterdam to Australia. At one point there were enough orders coming from France that a French version of the instruction sheet was developed. Conard recalls seeing Eddy, after a particularly busy holiday season, scratching his head and muttering something to the effect of, “By now I would have thought everyone in the world had one of these things!”

Not so. Production today, now overseen by Roger’s grandson Martin Fox, averages between 100,000 and 150,000 bird calls per year, and Fox estimates at least several million Audubon Bird Calls have been produced since its invention. Why has this product sold so well? Besides a relatively low retail price, there have been only a handful of serious competitors over the decades, now reduced to one, Toysmith, which markets a similar bird call specifically for children. The key to the Audubon Bird Call’s success is that it works as advertised. With only one moving part, it does what it claims it will do—attract birds.

Roger Eddy’s interest in birds also resulted in his manufacturing bird feeders that used two- and three-liter plastic soda bottles to hold the seed. These feeders gained wide popularity with bird lovers beginning in the 1980s, in part because they reused plastic soda bottles in the days before bottle deposits and recycling.

Meanwhile, Eddy was also running a farm that produced, at various times, milk, beef cattle, berries, apples, vegetables, maple syrup—and even a hardy variety of Mediterranean yew tree suitable for New England landscapers! Somehow, amidst all this, the aspiring writer in him found time to publish several novels and nonfiction pieces, serve in the Connecticut state house (1959 to 1961) and senate (1967 to 1971), become a regular on public-affairs TV programs, and run for U.S. Senate in 1986.

More than a decade after Eddy’s death in 2003 Fox continues production of the call, and although manufacturing now takes place in Rhode Island, the metal twisting ring still reads “NEWINGTON CONN.”

Listen to a podcast about Roger Eddy’s Audubon Bird call at–the podcast of Connecticut history brought to you by Connecticut Explored and the State Historian.

A descendant of one of Connecticut’s first families, Roger Eddy of Newington attended Yale and, with his wife Deborah, took their two small daughters to live in Italy for six months in 1951. There, during World War II, Roger served in the 10th Mountain Division and Deb was employed by the Red Cross. This is where the couple first met. Here is where he first observed hunters luring songbirds with tiny bird calls. He rapidly developed a fascination for these tiny hand-held calls and tried to learn everything he could from the hunters who made and utilized them.

Because of his love of birds, Roger Eddy also made bird feeders with seed held in two- and three-liter plastic soda bottles. Bird enthusiasts began to use these feeders widely in the 1980s, partly because they recycled plastic soda bottles in the days before recycling and bottle deposits.

Not so. Martin Fox, the grandson of Roger Fox, is currently in charge of production, which now produces between 100,000 and 150,000 bird calls annually. According to Fox, at least several million Audubon Bird Calls have been made since the product’s invention. Aside from its relatively low retail price, this product has sold exceptionally well because, over the years, there have been very few competitors that have been a real threat—now down to just one—Toysmith, which sells a bird call that is similar but intended for younger consumers. The Audubon Bird Call’s success can be attributed to its ability to perform as promised. It attracts birds and does what it says it will with just one moving part.

After a sluggish beginning to the new venture, in which Roger hit the streets of New England in the vein of a Yankee peddler, pitching his invention to gift shops, pet stores, and sporting goods stores, his seemingly straightforward idea started to gain traction within a year, sometimes surpassing his capacity to produce them. The metal plug and wood barrel were made under contract by him and others, but the finishing and final assembly was done in his living room. Family and friends helped out. Eddy wrote about the product’s extraordinary success in a June 1953 Saturday Evening Post article, which piqued readers’ curiosity even more. Over time, Eddy’s family and friends were relieved of some of the burden by a small paid staff of assemblers.

Over the next few decades, Audubon Bird Calls were created in an office and workshop affixed to a dairy barn located on Eddy Farm. More than eighteen years of Eddy experience for Kyle Conard included fulfilling bird call orders for distributors and individual customers from Cape Cod to Amsterdam to Australia. There was a time when there were so many orders coming from France that the instruction sheet was translated into French. After a particularly hectic holiday season, Conard remembers seeing Eddy scratch his head and mutter something along the lines of, “By now I would have thought everyone in the world had one of these things!”

For more than 60 years, the Audubon Bird Call has been manufactured and adjusted by hand in the USA, earning it the respect of numerous generations of outdoor enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

The original AudubonTM Bird Call comes in an eye-catching gift box and is offered in both natural birch and classic red finishes. Sturdy cast zinc and solid birch construction. Rosin capsule included to maintain the call’s distinctive chirp.

By turning the wooden cylinder against the cast zinc plug, the bird calls are audible. It is possible to accurately mimic a variety of bird sounds by twisting back and forth and varying the pressure between the two surfaces. The bird call, which was first developed by European songbird hunters, draws birds by giving the impression that other birds are nearby.

Available as single units for $10. Red Birch color; 24 pack available for $6 per unit; quantity: add to cart


How do you attract birds with sound?

Pishing– This is a subtle sound made by humans to attract birds. These little sounds let birds know you are around, maybe setting out food or sitting on the patio with a snack. Pishing could include phrases such as “pssh”, psst, “sip” “seep” “chit-chit-chit”, or various tongue clicks..

Do bird callers work?

Birds will respond to calls that you play, but there’s no telling how they will react. They might start to come in to see what’s going on, and see the feeders, or they might get spooked and fly off. Expert birders say it’s not a very good idea to try to lure birds in with recordings of their calls.