Photo: Clay-coloured Sparrow (Jim Wilson)
Playbacks and Pishing: Update from the Restigouche Naturalists’ Club and the Jacquet River Nature Group
By Mike Lushington
APRIL 9, 2020 — Members of the Restigouche Naturalists’ Club and the Jacquet River Nature Group have had discussions during their January and February meetings concerning the ethical uses of playback devices, as well as pishing1, to attract birds. Realizing that there were varying reactions to these practices, we initiated a process that involved some research into the issue as well as ongoing discussions that involved members of both clubs.
Louis Berube, who is a member of both clubs, undertook the task of leading the research and preparing a thorough, objective presentation of his findings at the February meetings. In summary, he concluded that there is no research that establishes real harm to birds although much of it also recognizes the potential for harm, especially if used excessively or inappropriately.
During the discussions both before and after Louis’s presentation, it became clear that many members objected to such devices and practices for aesthetic reasons; one person mentioned that “we don’t just go out to rack up large numbers of birds on our outings, but to enjoy the whole experience of being out there.”
We concluded by agreeing to the following protocol for the uses of playback devices and for pishing during our various group outings:
- We accept their use for formal research, such as owl surveys, formal counts, and other research when needed
- We accept their use for educational purposes, should the need arise.
Otherwise, such practices will not be welcomed or encouraged. Our bottom line is that we do not wish to condone anything that may bring harm to the birds, or to compromise the aesthetic experience of the outing itself.
Please note: The decisions mentioned in this article were made by the Restigouche Naturalists’ Club and the Jacquet River Nature Group with regards to their club activities and outings, and are intended only for their governance. If you are interested in having a similar conversation with your own club about methods to use while birding, please review the Nature NB Code of Ethics for guidance. Everyone is encouraged to read and respect the code to help us better enjoy nature and ensure it remains for generations to come. Available at www.naturenb.ca/ethics.
1. Pishing: A technique used by birders to attract small birds. The name comes from the “psh-psh-psh” sound that is made to attract the birds.