birdJam Ethics

The latest birdJam newsletter came out and there’s a link to a page on the ethics of using birdJam in the field. The site lists two things to remember: be considerate to other birders and treat the birds as you wish to be treated.

Many bird tour operators state in their tour recaps about “calling out a great bird” or some bird “responding to tapes, well”. While we feel this is OK to a point, it can be assumed that some birders (and tour operators) overuse this method for finding birds. There is a special incentive to “get the bird” for your clients.

Our own experience with using birdJam software with a portable speaker has been 100% positive. We’ve used it with a small group of birders to identify a Louisiana Waterthrush. We’ve used it a lot at home to help learn songs and have used it on birding outings to help confirm an odd sound. From our experience, most birds have two responses to sound playback

  1. come a little closer to investigate before carrying on normal activities
  2. ignore the sound completely

Pete Dunne has an excellent book about sound making called The Art of Pishing. It comes with a CD and in it he explains various ways to call birds without playing back their own sounds. We’ve mastered the Barred and Eastern Screech Owls and often can get responses from “normal” pishing as well.

The bottom line is this: birdJam is a great tool to use to help learn and identify birds by sound. Birds hear all kinds of weird sounds throughout their day – fire trucks, cars unlocking (boop-boop), kids screaming, etc. that a few extra sounds aren’t going to put them in a frenzy that kills them. That said, high traffic areas and places with high profile birds should not allow any tapes or unnatural sounds.

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