Date: 7/25/17 5:52 am
From: \Shultz, Steven\ (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...>
Subject: RE: Dowitcher response to recording: why not diagnostic?
Sometimes I think we (humans) tend to presume that animal behavior is clearly defined by a set of rules that we (humans) make up. For example, the thread below. Could it be that animals are more complex and behave not specifically on pre-defined behavior but on more dynamic terms?

I used to be in the camp that if you play a thrush (for example) call, and a thrush shows up, then, Q.E.D, it must be that species. Then over time I experienced enough situations where birds did not behave in the “expected” manner to suggest, at least to myself, that reaction to calls/song may be like any other individual (but not diagnostic) field mark. Added to other observed marks/behaviors, they can help build a case, but much caution should be used on their own.

Couple of examples:
A couple of years ago I was trying to see if there were any Blackpoll Warblers at the Mid-Pines creek crossing. I played a Blackpoll recording. A Black-billed Cuckoo aggressively responded. My first NC Black-billed! But certainly not a Blackpoll. Maybe this particular cuckoo has some issues in the past with a Blackpoll? Who knows. But it came tearing out of the foliage and sat clucking at me until I left. Clearly an interspecies example, but the Blackpoll song is generally not considered an alarm call, so presumably the cuckoo was not responding because it thought there was a predator nearby. (but as above, who knows?)

I’ve had Black-throated Blue respond to Black-throated Green recordings, and vice versa, and heard Black-throated Blue singing Black-throated Green songs (specifically at Trout Lake near Blowing Rock)

The NC “western” flycatcher, widely presumed to be Pacific-slope, responded to Pacific-slope calls and not Cordilleran, but was only accepted to “western” due, in part, to the uncertainty of identifying closely related species by behavior related to recorded calls.

While the calls of dowitchers are presumed to be diagnostic, I suggest that their response to calls may be less compelling. Added to other observable field marks (and Wayne knows his birds) I suggest that reaction to a particular call may help build the ID, but also suggest caution in presuming that the animals behavior must follow certain human-defined rules.

Steve Shultz
Apex, NC

From: <carolinabirds-request...> [mailto:<carolinabirds-request...>] On Behalf Of Edmund LeGrand
Sent: Monday, July 24, 2017 11:05 PM
To: <carolinabirds...>
Subject: Dowitcher response to recording: why not diagnostic?

In the discussion of the dowitcher at Lake Osceola, Henderson County, NC (see attached postings below), I have to wonder why the following behavior was not considered diagnostic for Long-billed Dowitcher: "I played the tape for Short-billed with no reaction from the bird. I then played the tape for Long-billed and the bird immediately took flight and circled 3 times overhead before settling back down on the mudflat."

Wow! That's pretty amazing behavior if it's anything like I envision. I've had similar dramatic responses, the best being for birds that were out of range at the time, i.e. far away from others of their species. One of the best examples was hearing a Western Meadowlark in east Tennessee in the winter and picking it out from the other meadowlarks by playing the song--this bird (and no others) immediately flew up and around and perched in a nearby tree, clearing searching for the singing bird. Another memorable instance was a very early American Pipit in Tennessee in September that I thought I heard in the distance. Similarly, that bird flew right in and circled several times looking for the source of the song, actively searching even after I left it. In both cases I had the impression that the birds were desperate for companionship, and I felt bad for disappointing the birds. (No I'm not anthropomorphizing, I'm ornithopsyching.) While I often get wintering pipits to come to recordings, it's never been this dramatic or persistent a response. There have been other non-breeding-season responses to recordings that have been especially pronounced for out-of-range individuals. By this standard, the dramatic response of a lone(ly) Long-billed Dowitcher fits the bill.

Yes, there is often cross-species interest in calls (besides the obvious multi-species response to alarm calls), but I've never come across strong responses to the "wrong" calls of the type described by Wayne.

Edmund LeGrand
Cumberland Co., TN

From: Harry LeGrand <hlegrandjr...><mailto:<hlegrandjr...>>
To: Wayne Forsythe <wforsythe...><mailto:<wforsythe...>>
Cc: Carolina Birds <carolinabirds...><mailto:<carolinabirds...>>, "<emas...><mailto:<emas...>" <emas...><mailto:<emas...>>
Date: Sun, 23 Jul 2017 15:03:31 -0400
Subject: Re: Henderson Cty, NC Lake Osceola
"For the record", a July date would strongly hint at Short-billed Dowitcher, not Long-billed. Short-billed is the early fall migrant of the two, mainly in July, August, and early September. Long-billed is notoriously late, mainly in September and October, sparingly in August inland.
As there is no known record of Long-billed Dowitcher for the entire mountain province in NC, not just Henderson County, it is very important to get this bird correctly identified and verified (by the records committee).

Harry LeGrand

On Sun, Jul 23, 2017 at 1:29 PM, Wayne Forsythe <wforsythe...><mailto:<wforsythe...>> wrote:
Folks, About 11:15 am Ron Selvey called me to report a Dowitcher at Lake Osceola. Upon my arrival we put a scope on the bird who was feeding on a mud flat. While the bird is pretty colorful, the face was very pale with a prominent white stripe over the the eye. I took several digiscoped pictures, from a pretty good distance so who knows if any will be diagnostic. Prior to leaving, I played the tape for Short-billed with no reaction from the bird. I then played the tape for Long-billed and the bird immediately took flight and circled 3 times overhead before settling back down on the mudflat. While not diagnostic, I think based on the early date and response to the playback, it may in fact be a Long-billed Dowitcher. I believe this could be a first record for Henderson Cty. if it proves to be the latter!
The bird is feeding on the longest mudflat, in the middle of what's left of the lake,in front of the White House with the tower under construction.

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