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Aaahh, Jenny,

Just in time for late July-early August when birders are bored and great controversies spring full-blown onto the listserve.

You will find nearly as many opinions about playing bird songs and calls as we have posters on mobirds, and most will be able to cite something that backs their opinion/practice/non-practice.

I'll give mine first so folks can have something to aim at, especially since it was probably my post with the mention of the irate Red-bellied Woodpecker that prompted your query.

It depends.  I'm not vacillating, just emphasizing that there is no one, simple answer.  Here are my "rules of thumb": 

1.  In breeding season when males are establishing/defending territory--no play'um ipod, except maybe a little if I have reason to think there is something special up there that I can't see or hear well enough to be sure.  Note:  I'm birding in places no one else hardly ever (or never) goes.

2.  In migration (spring or fall):  Play away (within reason).  The birds are not on territory; several are practicing; others are singing/calling and locating one another during feeding times before taking off for the next leg of the trip.  I'll play sounds enough to bring them into view, then shut it off.

3.  When teaching birding/bird i.d., I will play the ipod (mine is named McMimic) to bring feeding flocks into view for class to see.  I'll play a variety of small bird sounds.  I don't see this any more (probably less) intrusive/disturbing than playing Eastern Screech-owl over and over to attract mobbers.)  

4.  When viewing a "look-alike" species, I may play vocalizations to elicit a response to determine identity (this has varying results; e.g., a silent empid usually remains a silent [unidentified] empid.



As to that woodpecker.  I played the sounds through one cycle.  He was incensed, because we were unknowingly very close to the nest hole.  He gave us the "what for!" and went away the winner, for he held his territory and scared the interlopers away.

Hope this gives a perspective, and some food for thought rather than fodder for a fight.

Edge Wade
Columbia, MO
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On Jul 27, 2009, at 6:10 PM, Jenny Gunn wrote:

Hi, I'm Jenny Gunn, a recent retiree of Mineral Area College where I taught life sciences for 30 years.  I've been following your Emails for a few years and have loved reading and sharing your excitement and sometimes your conflicts.  I have a concern which has been growing as I read about more and more people playing taped calls to birds.  Maybe I was educated too many years ago but we were always greatly discouraged from playing taped calls to birds.  I understand the use of calls for Marsh birds and a few other grops but isn't there a chance that too many people are playing too many taped calls to birds?  Is there no longer concern over this confusing or conflicting the birds on territories?  I remember from years ago that males on territories will react less and less to neighboring males after a time but that doesn't work with taped calls.  Someone, anyone, straighten me out if I'm wrong.  Thanks
 
Jenny Gunn
8069 Greystone Lane

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The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
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