Date: 6/30/17 6:18 pm
From: 'Bailey, Steven D' <sdbailey...> [ILbirds] <ILbirds-noreply...>
Subject: IBET Rare Illinois breeding birds, birding ethics and the law
It has come to my attention that some recent actions of a number of Illinois birders, including experienced birders have resulted in the harassment of one of Illinois's rarest breeding birds, in an area where it may be breeding or attempting to breed. I have been asked by respected biologists and naturalists to comment on the situation. I've been an active birder in Illinois for more than 45 years, and have conducted ornithological research with Illinois's oldest scientific organization, the Illinois Natural History Survey for almost 35 years.

Over those years, I have been lucky enough to see and hear some of the state's rarest resident bird species, as well as some of its rarest migrants and vagrant species. A large majority of these uncommon to rare birds were seen and heard simply by careful stalking of the bird in the areas they were originally found, or where I lucked upon them. No tapes/recordings were played to bring the bird in closer to view or photograph... though I have used my fair share of recordings to attract some of these rare birds, both as a birder, and as a biologist sanctioned to use playbacks of such birds to discover if they are present, for detection in the work I do. For my work, these recordings are most often used during the breeding season, as that is when much of my field research occurs. Such use of recorded playbacks of both common and state threatened and endangered species is limited, done with the permission I have through the work I need to do.

Limited playback of most bird species songs and calls has become a regular item in the avid birders' "arsenal" of ways to attract and see the large variety of birds that can be found in Illinois and elsewhere. However, there are some ethical/moral considerations to be observed by anyone who wants to be a conscientious birder.

Let's start with the more moral/ethical considerations, and for birders, maybe the best place to look is in the American Birding Association's (ABA) stated ABA Code of Ethics - specifically

"1(b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during
observation, photography, sound recording or filming.

Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas (my underscore) or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area (again, my underscore).

1(c) Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private landowners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities (again my underscore)."

Though David Sibley seems to be more pro than con on the issue of using playback calls of birds, even he states that, "It is also illegal to disturb any endangered or threatened species (and playback can be interpreted as disturbance). Any potential negative impacts of playback are more likely to occur in areas with a lot of birding pressure, so avoiding playback entirely in those places is a good idea."

Birders need to remember that from May through August (some species even earlier or a little later), much of the Illinois birds are in the process of breeding... whether that be courting a partner, building a nest, laying and incubating eggs or feeding nestlings or fledglings. Many birds at these times need to be treated with even more respect and consideration than the rest of the year... such that playing a tape/recording for that rare vagrant that just showed up does not usually require the caution and care needed in trying to get the same kind of view of a rare, state threatened or state endangered breeding bird species. Additionally, an obvious migratory flock of state endangered Wilson's Phalaropes at a local fluddle, or that wintering Short-eared Owl in a large alfalfa field, doesn't need the same kind of caution that a breeding pair of either species would necessitate.
Just the act of using a playback call of any Illinois state threatened or endangered bird species is illegal. The "taking" of a listed species is considered breaking the law, and "harassing" is defined within the parameters of an illegal "taking. From state law:

(520 ILCS 10/1) (from Ch. 8, par. 331)
Sec. 1. This Act shall be known and may be cited as the "Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act". "Take" means, in reference to animals and animal products, to harm, hunt, shoot, pursue, lure, wound, kill, destroy, harass, gig, spear, ensnare, trap, capture, collect, or to attempt to engage in such conduct.

I hope that Illinois' birding community can find it within themselves to exhibit good ethical and moral behavior when trying to add that new lifer to their lists, especially for the next couple of months when birds are raising their young to fledging. It is already a very stressful period for rare, threatened and endangered birds.
Borrowing from a line I read: Remember, when a bird responds to a recording, it is no longer foraging, caring for eggs or chicks, preening, resting or otherwise doing the activities it needs to survive - all because it is chasing a fake bird.
Constantly chasing competitors stresses the bird, and unlimited recording use can dramatically impact birds. Let's not let our own selfish wants/needs override the safe and successful outcome of some rare Illinois breeding bird's attempt. We don't want to become another hindrance or challenge that such rare species must overcome. Good birding!

Steve Bailey
Mundelein (Lake County)

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