New paper published on the effects of birdwatchers’ playback

15 10 2013

Our paper on how birdwatchers’ audio playback affects the behavior of birds was just published in PLOS ONE. Birdwatchers benefit conservation by supporting ecotourism, but they may have negative effects on the ecosystems they visit. One potentially negative impact comes from the use of recorded vocalizations to attract species of interest. Despite the importance of this issue, the effects of birdwatchers’ playback have not yet been investigated in a peer-reviewed study. We tested for the effects of birdwatchers’ playback on the vocal behavior of Plain-tailed Wrens and Rufous Antpittas in Ecuador. We found that both species produced more vocalizations after playback, but wrens essentially stopped responding after 12 days of repeated playback. Increased vocalizations after playback could be interpreted as a negative effect of playback if birds expend energy, become stressed, or divert time from other activities. In contrast, the habituation we documented suggests that frequent, regular birdwatchers’ playback may have minor effects on wren behavior.

Check out the media coverage of this article here:

Front page of the Wall Street Journal here and here.