Edge raises an issue that I tried to pursue with the American Birding 
Association following the "Smithville gull incident" -- unnecessary use of 
scientific permits in a way that is inconsiderate of other birders. I 
believe that the collector of the Smithville Gull and I have made peace, and 
I don't want to reopen that one. But the basic philosophical issue remains 
unresolved, and it deserves calm and rational discussion (if that is 

ABA's Code of Ethics provides as follows, in relevant part:

1(b) " [A]void stressing birds or exposing them to danger ..."

4(a) "Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders ..."
4(b) "If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and 
intervene if you think it prudent. ..."

In the case of the Smithville Gull, I wrote a letter to ABA asking why 
collection of the gull was not unethical. I could write a similar letter 
today arguing, as Edge has done, that banding  the hummer was also 

My efforts (and Edge's) to intervene were consistent with Section 4(b) --  
although I spoiled mine by losing my cool (always a bad move!)

ABA published my letter and responded publicly that the ABA Code of Ethics 
applies only to persons who bird for sport -- IT DOES NOT APPLY TO 

When I wrote back objecting that some scientists are also birders, and the 
Code ought to apply to them if their primary objective  relates more to the 
sport of birding than to a pre-planned scientific project (e.g. is to 
identify a bird, provide evidence for a first state record, etc.), I was 
referred to the Chairman of the Ethics Committee. I made my case in a letter 
to him. He did not respond.

Eventually, I got the Missouri Conservation Department to make a small 
change in its permitting regulations, which I hope will cause holders of 
collector's permits to dialogue with MDC before taking stray birds that a 
lot of birders are watching. Unfortunately, that regulation does not apply 
to banding.

I do believe that it was or should have been unethical to band the 
Broad-tailed Hummingbird before more birders had an opportunity to see it.

However, I also believe that the interests of  the bander and of the birding 
community are relative -- i.e. the more opportunity there has been for 
birders to see the bird, the less objectionable it becomes to band it and 
drive it away.

I am thinking of the Allen's Hummingbird that appeared at Chris Hobbs' 
feeder in Bonner Springs, Kansas, which took off immediately after the 
banding and was never seen again. Ironically, the birding community has 
conflicting interests when a bird shows up that cannot be certainly 
identified without capture. Birders want to see the bird. They also want to 
be able to count it. In the case of Chris' bird, birders who came to see it 
might not have been able to count it had it not been captured.

Supposedly "stray"  Rufous Hummingbirds have been banded in central states 
and recovered, so it can be argued that banding the BTHU may produce 
valuable information. There is really quite a bit of evidence to support a 
hypothesis that Rufous Hummingbirds are regular migrants through Missouri 
and regular winter residents in gulf coast states, albeit in small numbers. 
The case for banding the BTHU to prove regular migration is much weaker 
because it would be a first state record.

Bottom line: I agree with Edge that the bander of the BTHU should have 
waited. Ideally, we should have a notice system that will provide reasonable 
notice before a banding attempt is be made. Then birders who want to add the 
bird to their lists can go and see it before it takes off.

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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