does playing bird sounds attract birds

Other birders use playbacks often. One example is Birding Bob, a New York City birder who plays vocalizations often and at high volume in places like Central Park. The New York Times recently posted a video op-ed of Birding Bob with commentary from several other birders. The video provides a balanced look at the pros and cons of using playbacks. You can see the video by clicking here.

Thanks to the development of smartphones and bluetooth technology, birdwatchers can now easily entice birds to come in closer by playing bird vocalizations. Numerous smartphone apps featuring bird sounds are available. A tiny Bluetooth speaker amplifies the comparatively weak smartphone speaker with an unexpectedly loud sound. These playbacks are highly effective.

Playbacks are not something I use when birding alone. Sometimes, as a field trip leader, I will use playback sparingly to draw attention to difficult-to-see birds. According to my reasoning, a bird’s minute or so of stress caused by hearing a playback enables everyone in the group to see the bird. It might be more stressful for the bird to be followed around for ten minutes or longer so that everyone can get a look. I never use playback when I go birding in an area where other birders might be using playbacks there.

For many years, ornithologists have found great use for playbacks of recordings of those sounds. We can better understand the purpose of various sounds by hearing vocalizations at different times of day or season. A bird’s territorial boundary can be mapped using replays. The ornithologist walks toward a singing male. The male typically doesn’t pay attention to the vocalizations of a neighboring male until that male or the playback enters the territory of the first bird. This method makes it feasible to map a territory’s borders with astonishing accuracy.

The use of playbacks has some ethical implications. Stress hormones in a male bird rise as soon as it hears the noise of a presumed male intruder. Birds become agitated, increasing their metabolism. In order to replenish the calories they expended in reaction to a perceived threat, they need to eat more. The use of alarm calls has an even stronger effect. Playing a recording of a Northern Saw-whet Owl’s vocalizations or of chickadees swarming an owl draws a large number of people from various species.

Whether you classify yourself as a birder or a photographer, I will guess that you are interested in getting closer to your subjects. I will also guess that technology now plays a big part in your birding. There are many beneficial tools out there that can elevate our understanding and appreciation for birds – but there is one that I see frequently used inappropriately while out in the field. Bird call recordings can be useful learning tools, but using them in the field to lure birds to come closer is a controversial and debated topic among birders. If you choose to use recordings in the field, it is important to educate yourself of the possible harmful effects and to use them ethically.

I am a photographer who primarily focuses on birds. Two birds that I have discovered in our area over the last two years have caught the attention of birdwatchers from all over the state. A male Painted Bunting at Botany Bay lacking its red plumage, and a Great Kiskadee at Bear Island I discovered how quickly unusual bird sightings spread, and I was disappointed to learn that both species were constantly being sought after by photographers and birdwatchers hoping to catch a glimpse or a picture. It disturbed me to consider these birds being reported missing, day in and day out.

Technology is here to stay, and one popular method to see elusive birds, identify a species, or get a good shot in the field is to use bird calls. I hope you will take into account the difficulties that birds currently face and whether using recordings is appropriate in a particular circumstance. We should all be following rules, being aware of the possible risks associated with recordings, and using them responsibly.

If you decide to use recordings in the field, it’s critical to use them ethically and to educate yourself on any potential negative effects.

Kelley Luikey is a Master Naturalist, photographer, and educator located in South Carolina. She has always loved the outdoors and adventure, and she spends as much time as she can on the water (or underwater) with her camera. She wants to use her art to encourage people to value and cherish the Lowcountry’s natural beauty. As an award-winning photographer, Kelley’s images hang in private homes and businesses around the nation. She has also been commissioned for large-scale commercial projects and advertising campaigns. She lives with her spouse and their two kids in Port Royal.


Is it OK to play bird sounds to attract birds?

The American Birding Association Code of Birding Ethics states that birders should “limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas or attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area.” While …

What sounds attract birds?

The following are sounds that best capture the attention of backyard birds. Insect buzzes – Bugs are a vital source of protein for fledglings. Soft chirps of insects will attract hungry birds seeking an easy-to-find snack. Bird chatters– Birds have their own version of “fear of missing out”.

Is playback harmful to birds?

For birders, this can be good and bad. It suggests that high levels of playback in an area don’t hurt birds terribly, but it also indicates that playback loses its ef- fectiveness. If we all use playback all the time, the birds will ignore us. And it’s possible that they will start to ignore each other.