Utah County Birders Newsletter
March 2003

March Meeting:

Wednesday, March 26th.

Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.

Our speaker will be Jim Parrish, the Utah Partners in Flight Program
Coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. He will speak about
several of the birds listed as sensitive here in Utah. Please come and
bring some friends.


Gunnison Sage Grouse
March 28 - 29

The Gunnison Sage Grouse Tour is Saturday March 29. We are to meet at
the County Building in Monticello Friday evening, the 28th. at 7:00 for
orientation. The building is one block south of the only traffic light
in town in the USU Conference Center. At the orientation we will get any
other information regarding the tour. Call or E-mail Reed Stone for details
and to secure your spot. They want to keep the number at about 15 persons.
We will be doing other birding, some before and some after the tour.
Come and have a GREAT TIME.

by Reed Stone

My interest in birds began when I was about ten years old. I was raised on a dairy farm. On the farm there were springs, streams and ponds. Part of my duties were herding cows while they grazed and taking them to and from the pastures.
   Where there is water there are birds. While herding cows there was always time to explore. It was during those times I would find nests and young of various species of birds.
   Killdeer would nest in the pastures. Their clutch of eggs were always four. The small end pointed toward the center of the nest. I learned early, not to follow the bird with the "broken wing". I learned when they put on the broken wing act to start looking for the nest or the young, in the opposite direction. With much searching I would be rewarded most of the time.
   When we thinned, or weeded sugar beets, we would almost always flush a spotted sandpiper from its well camouflaged nest. With similar circumstances I would find nests of other species of birds: California quail, pheasants, common snipes and many others including bush and tree nesters.
   Pheasants would invariably make their nests in the alfalfa fields. When we would mow for hay we would almost always encounter a nesting hen. The nest was usually destroyed. We would take any in tact eggs and place them under a domestic setting hen.
   When the eggs were hatched the pheasant chicks would follow their "mother" just like any other chick, but not for long. The chicks learned early that they could fly. They soon left and went away on their own. After that we would cage them and raise them to maturity. Some of them wound up on our dinner table. 
   Our farm was located at about 1st north and on both sides of I-15 in Orem, it was an ideal nature preserve. Mountain Bluebirds would nest in our paper box and in old hollows in fence posts. Black Birds, Ducks, Sparrows, Meadow Larks, and numerous other species nested in their chosen habitats.
   On one occasion we captured a young Black Billed Magpie and raised it to maturity. It was a great pet. It would respond to our call "mack" which also became its name. We gave it free rain to come and go as it pleased. Oh those were the good old days. With the habitat constantly shrinking the birds are being forced into smaller and smaller spaces. The final result is fewer
birds because of their territorial needs.
   Those really were the GOOD OLD DAYS.

Bird Songs
by Robin Tuck

I was reading the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Avian Conservation Strategy document when I found a line that stopped me in my tracks. In speaking about a particular bird’s habitat, it said “Physical disturbance has been caused by hunting, predators, bird watchers. . .”. I was stopped mid sentence.
   Do we bird watchers harm the birds we are trying to see?
   Right now, local birders are involved in a controversy about playing bird calls to attract some particularly hard-to-find species, which has found its way into the public newspaper. Some birders feel it is OK to use recorded bird calls to attract illusive species while others feel the use of recordings harm the birds and ought not be used except in special circumstances.
   Should we use recorded bird songs or not?
   I am a proponent of the American Birding Association Principles of Birding Ethics, which may be found at http://www.americanbirding.org/aba ethics.htm
One of the principles addressed is 1 (b) “To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming. Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area;”
Birds sing to attract a mate and to establish and defend territories.
Their songs are not just ‘pretty melodies,’ they are equivalent to ‘fighting words.’ When birds hear their song in their territory, they do not fly around looking for a friend; they fly around looking for a fight, and that’s stressful.
   Birds need a tremendous amount of energy to keep going. Having to check out their song could cause them to expend a lot of precious energy unnecessarily.
   Depending on the bird, playing their song may only be effective when the bird is establishing a territory and nesting, exactly when playing it is most stressful to the bird.
   Based on my limited research, most people believe it is OK to use a bird’s song to attract the bird if the following guidelines are followed:
   1. Don't play tapes where it is illegal, such as some Nature Reserves and National Parks, or other heavily birded areas where a few individuals may be subject to constant playing of tapes.
   2. Limit playing the tape to one short session. Do not play the song repeatedly for the same bird. Find a different bird. Continuing to play songs will frustrate the bird and be stressful since he can’t find the intruder. In the worst-case scenario, you might cause a bird to abandon his territory.
   3. If the bird seems stressed, stop immediately and leave the area. Stressed birds may flit about the treetops frantically or will just sit there with its beak wide opened like it's panting. 
   After researching this issue, I feel bird songs should be used as a ‘last resort,’ after having tried to find the bird without it. Do not stress the bird unnecessarily, and then do it only if there is a good reason.  Personal convenience is probably not a good enough reason. It is best not to use songs to attract the bird at all.
   Quoting from the Principles of Birding Ethics, “In any conflict of interest between birds and birders, the welfare of the birds and their environment comes first.”