Birders seem to have a score with everyone.
There’s not a single hobbyist group I can think of that I haven’t heard birders bemoan about, and occasion, birders even turn on themselves. I don’t see the sense in that. If you’re going to accuse people, at least don’t stab yourself in the gut.
I join the ranks of birders who have fun shooting clay pigeons at other groups in a while, I’ll admit it. I’m no special snowflake. I especially like taking the occasional stab at non-birders who call grebes “baby ducks” and Brewer’s Blackbirds “wrens.” Let’s not even talk about cranes, storks, egrets, and baby delivery.
But the infamous storm that was brought on by the simple death of one rare kingfisher in the Solomon Islands marks the penith event of a series of long, convoluted background ceasefire between certain birders and biologists. Yes, biologists. Not just biologists in general, ornithologists. The very scientists who labor to protect the creatures that birders seek to see and list.
So what exactly went wrong with the Moustached Kingfisher to set off the storm? An endangered, rare inhabitant of the Solomon Islands, Moustached Kingfishers have been lacking in specimens, particularly male specimens, in ornithology collections, for the greater part of the century. Their renowned rarity continues to elude ornithologists to this day. So imagine the birding community felt, when, upon discovering a living male, an ornithologist captured it viciously and, in a display of a complete lack of morals, killed it in an inspired spurt of trophy hunting.
Wait. What’s wrong with that version? A lot, obviously, yet, that is the version that many people seem to take to heart when attacking he actions of the ornithologist under fire.
Birdlife points out that “This spectacular species is judged to be Endangered on the basis of a very small estimated population which is suspected to be declining, at least in part of its range... However, further research may reveal it to be more common.” The collector, Christopher E. Filardi, writes, “ As I wrote from the field, this is a bird that is poorly known and elusive to western science--not rare or in imminent danger of extinction,” and “ Analyses of the specimen in question will clarify evolutionary relationships among Moustached Kingfishers and help answer important questions about the evolution and biogeography of kingfishers, of high elevation bird communities, and of southwestern Pacific biotas more broadly.”
Not so clear-cut, is it? You can pick your stance yourself -- I’ll try and stay out of it because noone cares about the opinion of a 15-year old, and rather outline some heated arguments that have taken place before the kingfisher storm.
Birders will bite and claw to the death to defend their opinions on playback and mist netting. While the statistics unambiguously prove that casualties resulting from mist netting are miniscule and are miniature in comparison to the scientific data that mist-netting bird banding methods provides, the emotional impact of seeing birds helplessly entangled in mist nets is understandingly upsetting.
Also upsetting, in a similarly understandable way, are studies regarding the use of playback. Most of these studies are loose and widely criticized by all who look carefully at their methodology.
(Another study which used playback to help a population of breeding Black-throated Blue-warblers to recolonize newer growth forest that they had previously largely ignored was largely ignored by the bulk of anti-playbackers).
One particular "playback reduces response," experiment that played continuous bird sounds near a nest in order to see if bird response was reduced, had no control group. That aspect was conveniently overlooked by a great bulk of birders, who frequently cite this experiment as solid evidence of the heresy that is playback. I'm not advocating the use of playback, at all (especially during the breeding season) but a one-sided view of playback and bird banding is sadly held by many. The opposition to playback is so strong in some segments of the birding population, that pishing, sqeaking, or accidentally creaking your camera lens will be instantly met with death laser stares from the five nearest birders around you.
If you thought that politics in birding was any less vicious than that in the 2016 elections, you were wrong. And the war on photographers, hunters, and ornithologists, by birders, is one of the bitterest battles that has ever existed in this hobby.
To gain a clear idea of the pure hate that gushes forth from the hearts of self-righteous self-proclaimed-bird-lovers, check out this Facebook page. I encourage anyone from that page who visits my site to spam hate -filled comments on this post, or at least a hate-filled post on their page mentioning this site--yes, I'm a bird bander, an amateur one, but I have *gasp* held birds before and *bigger gasp* put a metal band on their leg. It will prove a point. And also increase site traffic.