Bird Apps May Confuse Real Birds

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Some experts are warning that cell phone apps that mimic bird calls are too real.

Concerned that birds may misinterpret the sounds as coming from their feathered friends, rather than phones, and responding to them instead of, say, feeding their babies, experts in the United Kingdom are calling the apps “harmful.”

“Repeatedly playing a recording of birdsong or calls to encourage a bird to respond in order to see it or photograph it can divert a territorial bird from other important duties, such as feeding its young…It is selfish and shows no respect to the bird.

“People should never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season,” Tony Whitehead, public affairs officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, told the BBC.

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Meanwhile, developers of the apps say the sounds are educational and not a cause for concern.

“Just keep the volume low,” Dr. Hilary Wilson, a developer for the Chirp! app, told the BBC, although she admitted it is possible to misuse them. “We urge great caution — birdsong is simply a pleasant sound to human ears, but to birds it is a powerful means of communication.”

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In England, The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 made it an offense to intentionally disturb nesting birds. Brownsea Island, in the county of Dorset, has put up signs warning visitors about using the apps.

Photo: A yellow oriole sits on a branch. Some ornithologists are concerned that sounds from bird call phone apps may be confusing birds in the wild. Credit: iStockPhoto

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