The use of tapes

Gene Bullock bullockg at
Sat Mar 16 09:18:08 PST 2002

The use of tapes is a very controverisial and highly emotional issue in some
quarters. Frankly, I see little difference between using tapes and doing
vocal imitations to attract target birds. Used with discretion, I believe
tapes are relatively harmless and often the only way to see some shy and
secretive species. Virtually all professional birding guides use tapes. So
have most veteran birders, although they discreetly avoid talking about it.
The problem arises mainly in heavily birded areas where tapes are used to
excess. In western Massachusetts, mourning warblers appear to have
abandoned certain nesting areas because of intense harrassment by birders
armed with tape recorders. I've met birders who rail against the use of
tapes with almost religious fervor. I think they are overreacting. On the
other hand, the excessive use of tapes to attract such birds as the rare and
endangered mangrove cuckoo in the Florida Keys should cause some concern.
The professional guide's dilemma, of course, is that people have paid a lot
of money to see this bird, and they hate to disappoint. I would hate to see
tape recorders categorically banned because I think they have their place.
But like so many issues involving individual behavior, their use requires
judicious restraint and sensitivy. I hope that's not too much to expect.
Gene Bullock

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