Ethical birding call playback and conservation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Until recently, bird-watching essentials comprised 2 items—comfortable footwear and binoculars. Although field guides increased accessibility and popularity of bird-ing, smartphones have revolutionized this pastime via birding applications that facilitate identification and play recorded calls to attract unseen birds into view. In the rush to adopt this technology, there has been little questioning of the consequences of using call playback, either for birds or birders. Although many have pondered this question and tales of excessive playback abound, few researchers have measured its effects on birds, suggesting the prevailing view of call playback as necessarily harmful is not evidence based. Using current practices of professional birding guides in Colombia as examples, we considered the motivations underlying use of call playback and identified 5 priorities for strategic research to inform ethical birding practices. We suggest judicious use of call playback can yield positive outcomes for conservation by minimizing disturbance, generating sustainable income for local communities, and increasing opportunities for the wider community to engage with nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-471
Number of pages3
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
Early online date28 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


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