Friday, March 21, 2014

What Kind of Bird is Flappy Bird?

Flappy Bird has taken the iphone world by storm. Many e-pages have been dedicated to this little yellow bird, but I've yet to see anybody speculate about the species of Mr. Flap. Unlike his e-avian compatriates, the Angry Birds, he does not have an official bird he is modeled after (yep, Angry Bird has canonical species). With a little investigation and birding know-how, we just might be able to figure it out.
The majestic Flappy Bird in flight. Some might be content to answer the central scientific question of this blog with "a Yellow Bird", but not us. We are birders, and we crave identification. Note the round, yellow body; the orange beak; the large, white eye. He also seems to have traces of light yellow or white, but that may just be a shadow. Where does this get us?
c. 'Mdf'of
Some might assume that the closest match is the Evening Grosbeak or the American Goldfinch, with their prominent yellow and white. The Goldfinch even does a fairly good job of matching the beak. Unfortunately, these birds have secondary black features that probably would have made it onto flappy bird, even given his low resolution. I think we can do better.
Baltimore Oriole - juvenile
c. John Schwarz of
The juvenile of many Oriole species does a much better job of passing the 'must be all yellow' test. It would also go a long way toward explaining what a clumsy flier he is, if he were a young bird. His beak leaves a little bit to be desired, but he's also a pretty round bird. Our best match yet!

c. Unknown. Retrieved from
A Yellow Budgerigar is a good next step (fun fact, Yellow Budgies are actually the result of selective breeding in captivity. It's a type of albinism!) We've got the colors spot on now. However, for some reason I doubt that Flappy Bird is a budgie. Traditionally parrot species are mostly suited for short flights between trees, whereas Flappy Bird can go on (theoretically) forever.
c. Glenn Bartley,
Somehow these birds are just not quite capturing the essence of Flappy Bird. Is it because they're not adorable enough? Wilson's Warbler is a terrific match in this category. Just take a look at the vacant facial expression, the beach-ball body, the tiny wings. We may have our flappy bird.
Photo by Steve G
c. 'Steve G' of
But we're not done. No. The Little Yellow Flycatcher takes what was good about that warbler and takes it to the next level. No dissonant black cap here. His bill is even a little closer to the right color. However, there's one major component of Flappy Bird's design that we have thus far been unable to replicate in the real world. The large, white eye. I mean, birds don't have white eyes, so this is just impossible, right?

c. Veli Pohjonen on

Wrong! Well, still right, but you see what I mean. This fellow is the Oriental White-eye and he is my best guess for Flappy Bird's bird of inspiration. He is strictly white and yellow, has the prominent white eye spot, and is distinctly spherical. We can quibble over the beak, but I call it artistic license. Another important note- The White-eye is endemic to Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen's native Vietnam. I think that little bonus point effectively seals the deal. You can officially tell your friends that Flappy Bird is an Oriental White-eye. And if they disagree, tell them some guy on the internet told you so. Try arguing with that logic.


  1. You've not played it much, have you?
    The Flappy's color changes! (Well, has varieties.)
    ..and it's really modelled after a certain fish...

    1. I was going for the 'basic' flappy bird model, since if you want to ID a bird you've got to start somewhere. As for a fish... I have no idea what you're talking about =)

  2. Great article, i was surprised to see how you didnt stop, you just kept on going, great job!

  3. There is now a Flappycoin digital currency:
    And a Flappy burger:

  4. Retro-Style Gameplay. With a hint of Space Invaders the gameplay is reminiscent of old school games. You move Stanley left and right to counter-attack the never ending waves of vicious enemies. The gun auto-shoots so your only task is to coordinate your eye-finger movement and avoid being touched.
    Flappy Bird
    Flappy games
    Flappy Attack