Interesting Mnemonic opportunity

I’ve had an interesting opportunity to apply to a job I would really like. Unfortunately I am not very qualified. It is a Wildlife Biologist position studying 4 target species of birds within a year long program. I do not have anything close to a biology degree, aside from being an outdoors person and having a passion for wildlife.

The position obviously gives preference to those with degrees, but they haven’t made it mandatory since it is a temp position. However, They also give preference to those who can identify all species of birds in the state.

As it turns out there is 445 species in my great state. The job closes in 11 days. 445 species to memorize is 11 days? Challenge accepted. :slight_smile:

Now, I probably wont apply for the job, but I may take up the challenge at any rate. Memorizing all of their commonplace names will be pretty easy, But I need to also be able to identify them by sight and sound. Very interesting…


This is fascinating! Lynne Kelly, author of Memory Code and Memory Craft, talks about doing this very thing (400+ birds in her region of Australia) using a lukasa. Not sure how she did it but she was testing to see if it could be done using a lukasa and it worked. Of course you could do this using whatever you are comfortable with. It’ll be awesome either way.
You may know this already, but she is a member of this forum. This is her book.


Unfortunately her book is still on my ‘to read’ list but I very much look forward to it. I haven’t told @LynneKelly this yet but she actually is the one who really got me into mnemonics. I was listening to a podcast she was a guest on. She spoke about mind palaces and her book and it spurred me to research more. I found this forum and the wonderful world of mnemonics and it immediately enriched my life!

have also never used a lukasa and planned on using a mind palace, but I would be very interested in it for sure. Especially with identifying birds in the field.


You have nothing to lose to apply anyway s right? I bet they would be very impressed if you managed to memorize all necessary, perhaps even enough to get the job. Shows even more commitment when you did it on your own, I believe.

And I really like this idea of learning bird species, do you have name and photos of all of them?

Could you share the list here some here?

What else would you have to memorize?

Kind of thing I would like to memorize for a change!


Thank you for saying such lovely things, Prometheus09. And thank you for mentioning that I did that in the book, velon. I associated each family with a bead or group of beads or shell and then made stories to link all the members of that family. The stories included identifying features. I could easily do the families in 11 days, but I doubt I could get close to all 400+ birds. It would give an overview and you would get the most common species and your four target species in doing that time.

I’d love to hear how you go!



Good challenge! How would you memorise the sounds? Make some kind of code? I imagine people have already done this with music.

Also, I have come to learn the importance of the 80/20 principle - ie sorting things by priority. So if I were preparing for a test on bird species with limited time then I’d organise my mnemonics in some kind of logical order. Perhaps a room for ducks with the most common duck first and the least common last. Then if I was shown a picture of a duck in the test and I wasn’t quite sure what subspecies it was then I’d know to go with the more common subspecies.


I memorise bird calls by singing them as part of the stories for the species within a family. That song acts a a set of subheadings heading around the palace, with an emphasis on every fifth. I sing all the families first and then, when there are more than one or two species in the family, I have stories for the species names. If the call is relevant, I sing it. For many birds, you never use the call. Some, it is a movement, so for those I add a little dance. Basically I am copying indigenous cultures in this way.

I also sort by something more useful than the alphabet, to add the extra information. I don’t do common-to-less-common for birds because I do taxonomic order because of the value in ID in the field in knowing those that might be similar. For countries, I store them in population order, so the most common are certainly first and those I rarely hear of are last. So I have much more information stored in the palace locations for the first hundred countries than I do further down the list.

I really think there is huge value in considering the way you structure a memory palace (large or small) before you start encoding.


More than an opinion. There’s a mountain of Computer Science theory to support it. In fact sometimes all the information is in the structure. A good structure not only makes the material coherent, it can also simplify and reduce the number of things you need to remember. It might be enough to know that all members of a certain family have a particular kind of beak and not have to remember that detail for each individual species. (That’s a wild guess example, I know nothing about birds)


It would also be nice to know the name of the state.

There’s a good link here about bird identification in US:

A lnk to freebies:

At the foot of that page is an amazing guide to memorizing - including mnemonics such as:

“Quick! Three beers!” from the olive-sided flycatcher’s song.

That’s my kind of mnemonic.



Thanks for that freebies link. After searching around a bit, I ended up on a site that has a guide to visualizing bird sounds that goes along with the Peterson field guide:

Links to the articles:

I used to have a great cassette (pre-CD) that had some mnemonics like that for bird songs of Eastern North America, but I’m having trouble finding it in Google and I can’t remember the author’s name. I’m not sure if it’s still in print. I’ll search for it later and try to find the title.


That’s a really interesting comment about identification. I found it really hard because I didn’t know if there was another similar bird and I simply hadn’t noticed some significant detail. Having a complete check list in my memory made a massive difference. Just as suggested, a juvenile at the edge of range stumped my husband, an experienced birder. But I could give him a complete list of the 36 honeyeaters - the main family leading to confusion locally - and he worked it out by elimination. It just makes me more confident knowing I have considered all possibilities.

Love the ideas on bird calls.


Here’s a general link that might be useful to the OP:

If you type “olive-sided flycatcher” in the text box at the top, you arrive here:

There seems to be dozens of hits. So you pays your money and you takes your choice.



Now I want to try something new as a result of all these links and ideas. I am learning calligraphy and watercolour painting. I want to try and represent the bird calls using calligraphy - the sound written phonetically with wider portions for louder and narrower for softer parts of the call, and the words rising and falling with the pitch and all the other stuff from the Earbirding articles Josh pointed to above. I’d use the watercolour decoration to indicate habitat.

I wonder if that image in memory would help me in the field. There is only one way to find out. If only there were 240 hours in every day.


Almost 500000 recordings of birds singing! This site is addictive thank you so much for sharing!

What about getting inspired by the sonogram s to transform the singing into images? See tens of thousands of sonogram s of birds singing here


Sooo…how did you go Prometheus09 with this project? What happened in those 11 days? Did you apply for the job? It sounded like quite a challenge but not impossible.

I don’t know how to link Prometheus’s name to this post, but hopefully they will see it.

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Just prefix the username with an @ symbol and it will auto-complete like this, linking to the name and notifying the user:*


(* unless they have turned off notifications)


Thanks @Josh :slight_smile: and hello @Prometheus09 :slight_smile:


Always wanted to learn calligraphy.

You might look at Arabic calligraphy which is highly developed because of the prohibition against making images. This stricture is relaxed if the image is actually a verse from the Quran.



Oh wow! That is stunning. I am practising for an hour every night and progressing well. There is a lot online, but my first real workshop with a physical teacher taught me huge amounts. There are details, like how to get ink to flow, which required the teacher to look at the nibs I was using (no good) and teach me a little trick of staying still on the paper until the ink connected, before I started moving for the letter. A tiny motion which makes all the difference.

I have to master blackletter and italic for memory projects I have on the list. But I would love to try these Arabic styles - and I will one day. Thank you!

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That is beautiful! I had never seen these birds. It reminds me a course I took on islamic geomatric design, where you actually learn how to draw some. It was so much fun, beautiful and impressive how with very basic principle s a world of amazing and infinite patterns arise.

The course was on Udemy and was this one : introduction to islamic geomatric design