Innovative Maryland Musician creates Bird Calls Phone: A Nature Lover’s Dream

Magnates News
5 min readJan 23, 2024

When Hatib Joof installed a canary yellow pay phone outside his restaurant in Takoma Park, Md., he had no idea it would become a beloved community attraction. The phone, created by David Schulman, promises a unique experience for nature enthusiasts and curious passersby alike.

An Interactive Art Project

In 2016, David Schulman, a Takoma Park violinist, composer, and audio producer, transformed an old and nonworking pay phone into the innovative Bird Calls Phone. The city had announced a contest to design an interactive public art project, which inspired Schulman to repurpose the neglected pay phone into something appealing and engaging for the community.

A Symphony of Sounds

The Bird Calls Phone allows listeners to experience the melodic calls of 10 native birds from the Takoma Park area. By simply dialing a number, individuals can immerse themselves in the enchanting songs of birds such as the yellow-crowned night heron, the pileated woodpecker, and the red-tailed hawk. The phone’s instructions are available in multiple languages, reflecting the diversity of the Takoma Park community.

Bringing Nature Closer to Home

The idea behind the Bird Calls Phone was to add a touch of nature to the urban landscape. By incorporating the sounds of local birds into an unexpected public space, Schulman aimed to create an immersive and soothing experience for everyone who interacts with the phone. This project not only resonates with nature enthusiasts but also serves as an educational tool, allowing individuals to familiarize themselves with the diverse bird species in the area.

A Collaborative Effort

Schulman’s vision for the Bird Calls Phone was brought to life with the help of various contributors. The McCaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provided recordings of native birds, while software engineer and artist Branden Hall rewired the phone to play the individual bird calls. Additionally, local artists and personalities, including Marika Partridge and Howard Connelly, played vital roles in enriching the project by recording bird descriptions and creating a metal bird sculpture to adorn the phone stand.

A Source of Joy and Relaxation

Listening to birdsong is not only a delightful experience but can also have a positive impact on mental well-being. Numerous studies have highlighted the stress-reducing and anxiety-alleviating effects of bird calls. Whether it’s the actual presence of birds in nature or the immersive recordings of their calls, the Bird Calls Phone offers a unique way for individuals to find respite in the midst of their daily routines.

A Resounding Success

Since its installation, the Bird Calls Phone has garnered immense popularity, becoming a beloved fixture in Takoma Park. Its ability to captivate people of all ages and backgrounds speaks to the universal appeal of connecting with nature, even in unexpected urban settings. The phone’s reception and impact reflect a community’s embrace of art, creativity, and the natural world.

In conclusion, the Bird Calls Phone stands as a testament to the power of art and innovation in fostering connections between people and the environment. Through this creative endeavor, David Schulman has not only brought the beauty of local bird songs to urban dwellers but has also offered a refreshing and unexpected experience, reminding everyone of the harmonious coexistence of nature and community in Takoma Park.

The Fascinating World of Bird Calls Phones

Imagine walking down the street and stumbling upon a seemingly ordinary payphone, but instead of the usual dial tone, you hear the melodious sound of a mourning dove. This is the unique experience that Josh Schulman has created with his Bird Calls Phone, an interactive installation that allows people to listen to recordings of local bird calls. Located near a restaurant, the phone has piqued the curiosity of passersby, especially the younger generation, who are captivated by the novelty of using a payphone and experiencing the enchanting melodies of various bird species.

Bringing Nature to Urban Spaces

The idea behind the Bird Calls Phone is simple yet profound — to bring a touch of nature into the bustling urban environment. Schulman’s creativity and passion for wildlife conservation led to the inception of this innovative concept, which serves as a delightful reminder of the beauty and diversity of local bird species. By replacing the conventional dial tone with the soothing sounds of birds, the Bird Calls Phone offers a refreshing and immersive auditory experience that transcends the mundane urban landscape.

Creating Moments of Wonder and Delight

For many individuals, encountering the Bird Calls Phone evokes a sense of wonder and delight. Children, in particular, are drawn to this interactive installation, eager to explore a piece of technology that is now a rarity in the age of smartphones. The opportunity to listen to bird calls free of charge presents a unique form of entertainment, aptly described as “cheep entertainment” by Josh Schulman. The joy and excitement expressed by young visitors underscore the appeal of the Bird Calls Phone as a source of novel and enchanting experiences.

The Impact of the Bird Calls Phone

The Bird Calls Phone has succeeded in sparking fascination and intrigue among those who chance upon it. Its ability to engage and captivate individuals, especially the youth, highlights the potential of such creative initiatives to cultivate an appreciation for wildlife and the natural world. By providing a platform for people to listen to and connect with local bird calls, the installation serves as a gentle reminder of the importance of preserving and cherishing the environment and its inhabitants.

The Vision for the Future

Josh Schulman’s vision extends beyond the singular installation of the Bird Calls Phone. He envisions this concept being replicated in other towns and cities, each featuring the unique bird calls of their local avian residents. By doing so, he aspires to raise awareness about the rich diversity of bird species across different regions and to offer people the opportunity to engage with nature in unexpected urban settings. The proliferation of Bird Calls Phones nationwide has the potential to transform the way people perceive and interact with the natural world, fostering a sense of unity with the environment.


The Bird Calls Phone stands as a testament to the ingenuity and creativity that can illuminate the fabric of urban life. Its ability to enchant and inspire individuals, particularly the younger generation, underscores the profound impact of integrating elements of nature into the urban landscape. Josh Schulman’s visionary concept serves as a reminder of the enchanting world of avian melodies that surrounds us, waiting to be explored and appreciated. As the captivating sounds of local bird calls echo through the receiver of the Bird Calls Phone, it beckons us to pause, listen, and embrace the beauty of the natural world in the midst of our daily lives.

This article was Originally Published on Top N Blog



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