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Concept: Birdwatching


Although recreational birdwatchers may benefit conservation by generating interest in birds, they may also have negative effects. One such potentially negative impact is the widespread use of recorded vocalizations, or “playback,” to attract birds of interest, including range-restricted and threatened species. Although playback has been widely used to test hypotheses about the evolution of behavior, no peer-reviewed study has examined the impacts of playback in a birdwatching context on avian behavior. We studied the effects of simulated birdwatchers' playback on the vocal behavior of Plain-tailed Wrens Thryothorus euophrys and Rufous Antpittas Grallaria rufula in Ecuador. Study species' vocal behavior was monitored for an hour after playing either a single bout of five minutes of song or a control treatment of background noise. We also studied the effects of daily five minute playback on five groups of wrens over 20 days. In single bout experiments, antpittas made more vocalizations of all types, except for trills, after playback compared to controls. Wrens sang more duets after playback, but did not produce more contact calls. In repeated playback experiments, wren responses were strong at first, but hardly detectable by day 12. During the study, one study group built a nest, apparently unperturbed, near a playback site. The playback-induced habituation and changes in vocal behavior we observed suggest that scientists should consider birdwatching activity when selecting research sites so that results are not biased by birdwatchers' playback. Increased vocalizations after playback could be interpreted as a negative effect of playback if birds expend energy, become stressed, or divert time from other activities. In contrast, the habituation we documented suggests that frequent, regular birdwatchers' playback may have minor effects on wren behavior.

Concepts: Scientific method, Effect, Affect, Hypothesis, Wren, Birdwatching, Carolina Wren, Bewick's Wren


How do you successfully engage an audience in a citizen-science project? The processes developed by eBird (, a fast-growing web-based tool that now gathers millions of bird observations per month, offers a model.

Concepts: Bird, Birdwatching


Conservation of biodiversity, including birds, continues to challenge natural area managers. Stated preference methods (e.g. choice experiments - CE) are increasingly used to provide data for natural ecosystem valuations. Here we use a CE to calculate birders' willingness to pay for different levels of bio-ecological attributes (threatened species, endemic species and diversity) of birding sites, with hypothetical entry fees. The CE was delivered at popular birding and avitourism sites in Australia and the United Kingdom. Latent class modelling results revealed heterogeneous preferences among birders, with correspondingly variable willingness to pay. Four clear groups were apparent from the sample; ‘quantity driven birders’, ‘special bird seekers’, ‘confused respondents’ and ‘price is no object birders’. Quantity driven birders are attracted to sites that deliver high levels of diversity and endemic species. Special bird seekers value threatened species and high levels of endemics most. Confused respondents' preferences were difficult to determine, but were most sensitive to the hypothetical entry fees, unlike the price is no object birders who were not at all sensitive to cost. Our findings demonstrate that birders are amenable to paying for their preferred birding experience. These payments could provide an alternative source of funding in some avitourism sites, on both public and private land. These alternative revenue streams should be explored and given full consideration in increasingly competitive conservation financing environments. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Bird, Endangered species, Revealed preference, Choice, Preference, Birdwatching