Taping bird calls and spotlighting.

Subject: Taping bird calls and spotlighting.
From: Tony Russell <>
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 10:09:44 +1030
Hi all, In the absence of any evidence to the effect that playback of birdcalls
causes any harm, I found John Wall's recent input on the subject to be the
most balanced and comprehensive effort I have yet seen.If you haven't read
it right through by now, you should do so, since it dispels the myth about
birds becoming mentally distressed and/or being induced out of normal
behaviour patterns by hearing recordings of their own calls. Surely these
are possible human reactions being ascribed to the avian psyche ( if they
have one )without any understanding of bird's mental processes. We have
enough trouble understanding what goes on in the heads of humans without
pretending to understand the thought processes of birds. Let's hope that
John's dissertation brings about one or the other of the following:

        1) A silencing of those who continually whinge about the use of tapes

        2) That someone gets off their bottom and does some comprehensive,
unbiased, and meaningful research to settle the issue once and for all.

Now, spotlighting to my mind falls into an entirely different category. I
believe that this is a practice which definitely should be exercised with
great caution. Many Ecotour operators use this method of finding birds for
paying clients who expect a result for their money. Many of you will have no
doubt witnessed how spotlighted birds become temporarily blinded by the
light such that if they attempt to fly they are in serious danger of flying
into unseen tree branches, buildings, etc. Ground birds are in even greater
danger from the vehicles used by the birders. I once witnessed several
confused Plains Wanderers in Southern NSW ( so we all know who I'm talking
about)frozen to the spot in the blinding glare of light, while the vehicle
made tight turns around them, not giving them any opportunity to escape.The
birders then got out of the vehicle and stood in a 5ft diameter circle to
prevent escape for about 5mins. Goodness knows how many other PW's might
have been run over in the process, and maybe the spotlighted ones were the
lucky ones! Admittedly not many keen birders would ever see a PW without
this practice, but maybe that's the price we should be prepared to pay, and
just believe that they are out there even though we don't get to see them.
I am interested to hear other people's views on this.

Tony Russell. 
Tony Russell
Ph: 08 82078470W
    08 83375959H
Fax:08 82078422
e mail: 

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