Date: 7/25/17 6:29 am
From: Steve Compton <scompton1251...>
Subject: RE: Dowitcher response to recording: why not diagnostic?
Good points. To make it even worse, as you know, sometimes birds will
sing a song of another species! This, surprisingly, goes beyond the
mimids and corvids. So ID must depend upon a combination of factors. I
just hope that crossbills don't imitate each other's songs.
Steve ComptonStill learning in hot Greenville, SC
Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE DroidOn Jul 25, 2017 8:51 AM, "Shultz,
Steven" <carolinabirds...> wrote:

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
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...>
To: Wayne Forsythe <wforsythe...>
Cc: Carolina Birds <carolinabirds...>, "<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...> 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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