[Tweeters] Ethics question about Snowy Owls and the such - long

Brett Wolfe m_lincolnii at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 6 09:42:53 PST 2005

Wow Wayne, as someone who has now banded around 1200 birds myself, I am very saddened to hear how uninformed many birders are about banding. Personally, as a birder, there is no greater thrill than obtaining information that may help us better understand whichever species of bird you are working on, and then watching it fly away unharmed. Sure, there is going to be some stress involved, but I believe that what we learn can be of greater value. Also, I believe that there is little proof that banding birds causes them to leave the area; they'll become warier, but won't just up and leave. In my experience (which is granted, little), birds will come to the same place, sometimes winter after winter (one Golden-crowned Sparrow was captured at least 3 winters in a row in Shoreline by Don Norman, but only in the winter, as these birds breed in Alaska). Now, in the case of these SNOW's everywhere, that are obvious new migrants, it may be different. Perhaps it would leave Discovery Pa!
rk. But
all of the questions that people have about these birds will only be answered when they are captured, banded and data taken. Everything else is pure supposition.

The statement from birders about "their" bird is the one part that really gets me. We should all strive to be stewards for the wildlife we all love so dearly. As such, birds belong to everyone and their ultimate well-being is in our hands. The questions we want answers to cannot always just be gleaned by visual observation in the field. The first thing that banders are taught about is bird safety. And the second and the third and the fourth because the birds' safety is of utmost importance. If you lose the bird, you have gained nothing, really. That is one of the reasons that I enjoy banding so much - the responsibility that a bander takes on for the brief time that that bird is compromised and in the hand. You are truly responsible for that birds life, and it is a great responsibility that I have seen many shy away from, as too big for them to deal with. All I ask is that my fellow birders learn from my fellow banders before making rash comments and assumptions about fiel!
d science
and research. Thanks!

Brett A. Wolfe
Seattle, WA
m_lincolnii at yahoo.com

"Wayne C. Weber" <contopus at telus.net> wrote:

It seems that you did not hear about the huge flap caused when a Northern
Hawk-Owl was captured and banded in Idaho last winter. Birders were driving
for many miles to see this bird, and for many of them, it was a "lifer".

A local raptor bander, who had all the necessary permits, decided to
capture and band the bird. It is highly likely that no harm
to the bird resulted, and some useful information (on weight, etc.)
may have been obtained. However, much outrage was expressed by birders
when it was first reported that the owl had left the area after being
banded. (It did not.) Some birders wondered out loud what gave the
bander the right to capture and manhandle "their" bird. I was surprised
at the amount of misunderstanding and venom directed toward the bander
and toward bird-banding in general.

So my suggestion would be, when an individual bird is the subject of such
intense public interest as the Discovery Park Snowy Owl, it would
be best to leave it alone, unless it appears ill. I think it would be useful
to get some information on things like the weights of wintering Snowy
Owls, so that we can get an idea of how many of them really are underweight
and food-stressed. Some of the ones in BC this fall definitely are--
I have heard of one near Prince George and one near Tofino (Vancouver
Island) which were very underweight and ended up in rehab centers.
However, I think it would be better to focus banding efforts on some place
like Ocean Shores, where there are far fewer birders who might take offence.

Wayne C. Weber
Delta, BC
contopus at telus.net

----- Original Message -----
From: "Levine, Barron S"
Sent: Monday, December 05, 2005 10:20 AM
Subject: [Tweeters] Ethics question about Snowy Owls and the such

A question for the group if time permits. If this is not an appropriate
venue for such an issue, would someone be kind enough to let me know.
Sunday at Discovery park Kate and I brought some non-birding friends and
their 2 daughters (aged 5 and 3) to look at the Snowy Owl that has been
present for the last week or so. Our group and all that passed by were
thrilled at the sight of such a wonderful bird. On our way out of the park,
there was a group of people ( a park ranger among them) who were "bandying"
about the idea of trapping the bird and banding it. The ranger asked what
the other people who were watching the bird thought about this idea. All
said they were against it, with various salient comments being made about
the reasoning for doing this. The park ranger decided against banding the
bird based on what the group had to say. Definitely was nicely done on her
The ethics questions is, when is it appropriate to band a bird like this
owl? This is not necessarily a broad question about the ethics of banding
birds in the first place. That might open up a whole can of worms that I'm
not asking us to tackle. Given that for so many people (my friends included)
this is a great opportunity to introduce people to the wonders of birding,
would banding this bird have enough benefit to offset the possible negative
Again hope this is within the boundaries of this group. Thanks

Barry Levine
levineb at bsd405.org
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Tweeters at u.washington.edu

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