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Digital calls to birds (21st December 2015) : Luring birds through digital calls causes stress in avian species, affecting their sexual behavior and the breeding system, according to the scientists. The repeated playback of such calls – mate acquisition call, alarm call, distress call and others – influence the sexual behavior of a particular species of birds and their breeding system, they said.

The avian species affected by the digital calls include Oriental Magpie Robin, Indian Robin, Purple Sunbird and Spotted Dove, they said. A senior scientist at the Dehradun – based Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), told about the reasons for stress among birds caused by playback of their digital calls. The research is based on behavioral ecology and sociobiology of birds with special reference to songs, calls and visual displays.

Like humans, male and female birds, too, release hormones that trigger their sexual desire whenever calls are made. Mate acquisition call for example leads to sexual desire amongst birds. People might play it to lure birds or for fun, but eventually the playback frustrates the bird if it does not find a partner. Similarly, other calls too lead to frustration among birds, hampering their mating capability and breeding.

On seeing the impact of the digital calls, a former conservator of forest sent a letter in March this year to the divisional forest officer (DFO), Nainital, asking him to keep a watch on digital calls at the Naina Devi Bird Conservation Reserve. “Vocal signals play an important role in a variety of aspects like pair maintenance, parent – offspring interactions, cohesiveness among flock or family members and threat situations,” he added.

Supporting the fact, the Journal of South Asian Ornithology says, “Song play – back can significantly increase stress in birds and take time away from critical activities.”

“The increase in vocalization and displays could indicate high stress levels and could entail expenditure of more time and energy in responding to the playback. This can negatively impact breeding success by taking time away from foraging and other maintenance activities,” the journal said.

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