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Is it possible to make birds confused by repeating recorded chirping or singing? Or do they always perceive them as usual, even if the situation is clearly not as described by those sounds?

For example:

  • mating song when there's no mate
  • danger/alarm cries when nothing's going on

Specifically, I'm interested in public placed with a lot of traffic using looping speakers to scare off birds that like to dump upon almost unsuspecting citizens. Like underground entrances and city malls. Does the effectiveness decrease over time because of that?

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    $\begingroup$ No idea, but have you thought of the fact that this might scare away those unsuspecting citizens, too? $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's quite annoying too. I'm thinking it's not the best solution against birds. But even if I don't have a say in that matter, I want to know more about how it works. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ This is entirely anecdotal, but the birdwatching community tends to ask people not to overuse calls (played via a smartphone or similar) to attract birds. Apparently, this can cause birds to stop responding to actual calls in the long run. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 21:01

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This is at least doing some confusion, probably also harm. A lot of wildlife conservationists warn about using smartphone apps which replay bird songs, as they are confusing the animals. An example is the Dorset Wildlifetrust.

This phenomenon has even be analyzed scientifically, and the results show that birds are irritated. Territorial birds seem to be affected more and it has been shown that, when a fake call was replayed to them, they sang more often and longer. In the first paper they speculate that this will drain too much energy and prevent the birds from doing other important things.

The second paper looks at zebra finches, which are not territorial. Here they find that birds pay less attention, the more often the song is replayed. The articles:

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