Re: Atlassing Nocturnal Birds

To: Stephen Ambrose <>
Subject: Re: Atlassing Nocturnal Birds
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998 00:03:12 +1000
> The jury still seems to be out regarding the ethical and welfare
> issues
> associated with the use spotlights and tape-recordings to locate
> nocturnal
> birds in areas. You may recall this discussion taking place on
> Birding-Aus
> about 18 months ago. Personally, I feel uneasy about thousands of
> well-meaning, but possibly inexperienced, atlassers using spotlights
> and
> tape-recorders to locate nocturnal birds because it may potentially be
> disruptive and harmful to these species.

While I appreciate the fact that people do have concerns about the
welfare of nocturnal birds and the effects that tape playback and
spotlights may have on them, I am of the opinion that any impact is
transient in nature. I think that the long-term benefits in getting a
fuller picture of the distribution (and hopefully habitat preferences)
of these species (using playback) outweighs any short-term effects that
individual birds might experience. Personally I have never been
completely convinced that playback has a negative effect on birds in
general. My feeling is that if particular birds are subjected to too
much playback they simply stop responding to the tape. In many cases the
birds concerned are cryptic (hence the use of the tape) and so are
difficult to locate because they are no longer responding to the tape.
Unless its the height of the breeding season (and calling regardless),
the birds aren't located- but does this mean that the birds are not
there or have they simply wised up to the tape not representing a

Does anyone know of any studies that have examined the effect of
playback on the behaviour or breeding of cryptic bird species?



Michael Todd,
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Newcastle,
Callaghan, N.S.W., 2308, Australia

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