Painted Bunting- STOP

SGMlod at SGMlod at
Mon Mar 4 20:51:34 PST 2002

Greetings All

This is undoubtedly going to unleash a firestorm. I will post this and will
keep my mouth shut unless the homeowners ask me to post again. Also, I have
some comments about rarities committees and wild vs. escape. So, even if you
are extremely angry, you may want to read on.

The homeowners have requested that people stop coming to view the bunting. It
was their expressed desire from the beginning to have very few people view
the bird, and they agreed to this mostly from their desire to have it
documented. A few extra (very few) had been allowed to visit. They now
clearly view all of this as a mistake.

Several arguments will be made
1) We're not tresspassing, so who cares what they think? This may be legally
correct, but in my opinion not morally so. Put yourself in their position.

2) How come only a few PRIVILEGED people get to see it. That's not fair --
I've certainly been on the unprivilged end of that stick more often than the
privileged end. By and large, I've wished it was otherwise, but I've accepted
it as necessary. If we want homeowners to say anything about birds on their
property in the future, we will respect their wishes now. If you knew
hundreds of people would show up in your yard (or barely outside of it),
would you publicize it? Would you advise your friend to do so?

3) Birders are a nice group of people. What's wrong with us coming by? Yes,
we are in general an exceptionally nice group of folks. But large numbers are
a hassle and an invasion, even if they are the most polite of folks.

4) This is in the name of science. Once the bird is well documented, very
little more is added.

5) This may be an inspiration to new birders -- there are plenty of other
cool birds to inspire new folks. I doubt this one bird would make the

Soooooo, I plead with the birding community, as a group of nice folks, I ask
you to respect the wishes of the homeowners and many of their neighbords, and
stop going to see the Painted Bunting. Please.

I know this will make some people extremely angry. I am sorry for that. We
will have to agree to disagree.

Now, regarding rarities committees

Birds are not suspects in a criminal trial. Neither are the observers (though
sometimes it feels that way!). A Cockatiel is automatically assumed to be an
escape. I don't think anyone would disagree with that unless a large breeding
colony is suddenly discovered in Ballard. On the other end of the spectrum, a
Red-necked Stint would automatically assumed to be wild, unless there was
something extraordinarily weird about the bird.

Now, for the inbetweens. We accept all Tufted Ducks as wild, assuming no
bands are visible, etc. Tufted Ducks are kept in captivity, and likely, a
couple of the WA records involve escapees. But these are few enough not to
disturb the overall pattern of occurrence. Painted Buntings are not so clear.
Yes, they are not legal to keep in captivity, but it still happens. And they
are perfect. Gorgeous, sing well, and eat seed (ie, easy to keep alive).
California has adopted the approach of accepting most females and immatures,
and rejecting most males (more likely to be kept in captivity) excepting
those seen at peak season. California is, of course, much closer to the
Mexican border where Painted Buntings are common in captivity. Interestingly,
there are a number of records of from the east coast during winter,
including some of adult males. We will be looking into these patterns re:
this winter's bunting in WA.

I am inclined to accept the bunting as it seems reasonable that a fall bird
headed north up the coast might stay to winter and be found later on.

Best Wishes to all
Steve Mlodinow
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