Many birds are difficult to see, such as the Sora. Its plumage blends perfectly with the dense marsh grass where it lives. So how can we get a good look at this denizen of the undergrowth? One way is to play a bird-call app on a mobile device. But using an app requires sensitivity. Because stress hormones rise in male birds -- like these Long-tailed Tits -- responding to long playbacks, use only brief playbacks and move on if you don’t get a quick response. And during breeding season, it's probably a good idea to hold the phone. Period.
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Hold the Phone
Written by Todd Peterson
Humans have long found ways to entice birds out of hiding. This wooden call gets a tom turkey's dander up to see who has the gall to invade his territory. [Yelping of a turkey call]
And humans compete to hear who can most convincingly bring ducks and geese into close range. And many birds are just hard to see, like the Sora Rail. Its brown mottled plumage blends perfectly with the dense marsh grass where it lives. [Call of Sora]
So how can we get a good look at this denizen of the undergrowth? One way is to play a bird-call app on a smartphone or other electronic device. Birds in residence may wonder who’s there. A rival perhaps, or a new mate. And they’ll come out of hiding to see. [Call of Sora]
But playing bird-calls on an app may have its drawbacks. Stress hormones rise in male birds responding to long playbacks. So it’s best to avoid having a lot of people use an app for the same species at the same site. It’s the lengthy singing of an unexpected rival that causes the stress. 'Out in the field, if you’re by yourself, use only brief playbacks and move on if you don’t get a quick response. And during breeding season, it's probably a good idea to hold the phone. [Call of Sora]
For BirdNote, I'm Michael Stein.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Sora  recorded by G A Keller.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org May 2017/2019 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# birding-23-2015-05-14 birding-23
Editor's note: We have this comment from an employee of the US Fish & Wildlife Service in Texas:
Know that there are many state parks or national wildlife refuges (or other public lands) that do not allow the use of bird calls precisely because of the undue disturbance it poses to birds.