High-tech birders may be foes of feathered friends

Birds such as the Swainson’s thrush might be impacted by growing use of recorded bird songs in the field, experts say. (Associated Press)
Birds such as the Swainson’s thrush might be impacted by growing use of recorded bird songs in the field, experts say. (Associated Press)

Growing use of smartphone applications, field access to the Internet and recordings to flush out bird species for better viewing and photography could be impacting the survival of some birds.

Experts recently interviewed by The Seattle Times say overuse of high-tech apps can stress male birds that believe a recorded song signals a rival invading their territory.

“Maybe humans have no business meddling in the life of birds and other critters,” The Spokesman-Review said in a post to Inland Northwest Birders for reader reaction.

Tom Davenport, North Idaho wildlife photographer, responded, saying not to worry:

“My experience is that animals are much smarter and much more resilient than we give them credit for.”

Kris Buchler, an expert in bird identification with the Coeur d’Alene Audubon Society, was more cautious: “There are ethics involved here and I’m sure use is abused. It is hard to know what the long-term implications will be.

“Good bird guides won’t use recordings if another group has just been to a site.  They also will limit the use. After calling a bird in, they will stop. 

“We used recordings of drumming when doing woodpecker surveys for the Forest Service and I know they are used for wetland surveys. Recordings are not allowed for Breeding Bird Surveys.  The observer listens only, and if you’re lucky to see something, great.

 Buchler and her bird-surveying cohort Lisa Hardy speculate that sooner or later technology will produce a device that can be pointed at an area to record and analyze a sound and enter the species in a database.

“Those of us who spent hours, days and years learning 100-plus species by ear will be obsolete,” she said

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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