Rare birds at a nature reserve are under threat from a mobile phone app which mimics their song.
Bird watchers near a reserve in Dorset have been using the app which imitates the call of the elusive Nightjar, so that they can then take a picture of the bird. However, according to wildlife experts, the usage of the app is distracting the birds from important tasks, such as feeding their young.
“The apps are becoming quite common, and are great as education tools, but their use needs some guidance,” said Chris Thain, Manager of the Brownsea Nature Reserve, in Poole Harbour. “We need to spread the word that use of these apps is not suitable for nature reserves and can be potentially harmful to sensitive species.”
To raise awareness amongst bird watchers, Dorset Wildlife Trust are launching an online campaign, after several visitors were caught using the app.
“Repeatedly playing a recording of birdsong or calls to encourage a bird to respond in order to see it or photograph it can divert a territorial bird from other important duties,” said Tony Whitehead, Public Affairs Officer for the RSPB. “It is selfish and shows no respect to the bird. People should never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season.”
Nightjars are nocturnal birds and can be seen hawking for food at dusk and dawn.
Brownsea Island now has signs warning visitors about phone app use on the reserve, which has Special Protection Area status for the habitats it provides for birds, including the Nightjar. Nesting birds are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which states that it is an offence to intentionally disturb them.