Cryptic sightings of cryptic birds

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Cryptic sightings of cryptic birds
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Sun, 7 Jul 2013 21:31:19 +1000
The discussion following John Young's recent release of Night Parrot observations is an interesting microcosm of birding culture.

A large part revolves around whether John will release an audio recording of a NP call, and whether releasing the call would compromise the welfare of the species. I agree with the two Micks that the potential impact of releasing the call is miniscule compared to releasing the location of the birds. Twitchers flock to known locations. All the previous twitcher aggregations and birding pressure have involved rarities in publicised locations. While there are some twitchers who will actively explore/search, others wait for reports to hit the networks (a bit like buzzards who follow other birds to the food). Few venture more than an hour or two's walk from where they can park a vehicle.

Given the chances of observing a night parrot are comparable to winning the lottery if you don't have the coordinates of a previous sighting, there is little risk. The conservation benefit of sharing the call is that birders would be able to recognise the call if they heard it, and pass the details on to someone who can do something to manage the pressures that threaten the survival of NPs.

Anyhow, there is the subject of secrecy. The norms of science in general and birding in particular and are built on information sharing. We are now in the era of crowd science, cloud storage, social media and WikiLeaks. The dynamics of publishing information and guarding secrets are changing.

The long-term impacts of the current partial release of information of the Night Parrot observations remain to be seen. Ultimately, the best way to keep a secret is not to let anyone know that you have a secret in the first place.

Regards, Laurie.

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