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New prey Item for Northern Harrier

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Saturday, January 5, 2013 

What a neat sighting I had this week. I was out at Farmington Bay and wondered what all the Harriers were fighting over, and came upon this adult female on a butterball chicken! It appears they know how to get to Smith's meat department?

Click on photo to enlarge.

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Blogger Bryce said...

This is unbelievable. I've heard of baiting, but never thought people would go to such silly lengths for a photograph. Pretty disappointing.

January 6, 2013 at 12:27 AM  
Blogger Mia McPherson said...

Very disappointing.

January 7, 2013 at 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Ron Dudley said...

Worse than disappointing. This makes me very angry.

January 7, 2013 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Mia McPherson said...

I have images of birds that went to that chicken but I didn't know what it was, now I will be deleting them. I don't bait, I don't do set ups and I don't call birds in.

January 7, 2013 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Ron Dudley said...

Ditto what Mia said. I'l like to stuff this chicken up one of the baiter's bodily orifices!

January 7, 2013 at 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Stephen Fisher said...

A phrase often heard in connection to the hunting community is "fair chase." Wildlife photographers should practice their own version of this, and it should not involve store-purchased mice thrown out or cast on fishing lines toward hungry owls, and it definitely should not involve butterball turkeys!

January 7, 2013 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger Kenny Frisch said...

I might have fought off the harriers for that turkey if I had seen it!

January 7, 2013 at 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

I've never seen a baiting case that involves a hawk, I've seen it for owls and warbler but never for any hawk. I wonder if it's only a matter of degree, isn't using a recorded call and spishing a form of baiting?

January 8, 2013 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger Kenny Frisch said...

I think baiting birds with unnatural food items is much different and much more dangerous than pishing and recorded playback.

With baiting, you are potentially poisoning the animal because who knows what kind of hormones or other things could be in the frozen turkey/ mice. It also introduces competition for a stationary food source. I haven't see harriers act as scavengers (they could I guess) but this frozen turkey is basically turning them into scavengers and puts them at risk for predation themselves since they have to put their attention to eating the turkey.

I guess one could technically call both spishing and using calls baiting, but both seem to bring out a natural reaction in birds whether it is mobbing a predator or defending a territory. Birds are hardwired to do both, and especially in the case of spishing it seems the birds like to do it, otherwise why would they be getting in the face of a predator when they could easily fly the other way.

January 8, 2013 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

Technically we COULD call any form of luring birds away form their natural activities--whether it be bird feeders, pishing, recordings, mimicry, or any other form of non natural things--BAITING. But you have to look at the impact on the obvious impact to the birds. One could argue that long term feeding of birds in your yards is far more detrimental than one butterball turkey in a marsh--I won't make that arguments because I think it's hogwash--it's just a fact that in one way or another any thing used to attract birds is a form of baiting.

I do just want to touch on one of the comments above form Mia: "I don't bait, I don't do set ups and I don't call birds in." Another argument that could be made is that photographers often impede on a birds natural activities just by photographing them--its not baiting, but it does change their routine. Whether it be getting too close--forcing them to maybe use a different route for feeding or their natural activities because there is someone (or to them something) that would not otherwise be there. Or by flushing them from a perch, or any number of other things. I have often heard photographers say, "The birds don't even know I'm there." Or, "the birds get used to me!" And I just chuckle--the birds are fully aware of our presence and without a doubt it effects their habits.

But that's just the human factor--we are here and injecting our lives into their world--so it's a matter of what level of intrusion do we collectively believe is acceptable, and personally believe. Personally, I am okay with everything mentioned above--except for the baiting with a butterball--that is ridiculous, and the photographer who did it is a lame ass. I am mostly okay with the use of play back for birds--specifically nocturnal birds. However, I find the overuse, and/or constant use of tapes for any regularly occurring species to be just plain lazy. And as for photographers getting too close, I myself have been guilty of this--when and if I flush a bird, I know I have gotten too close and try in the future to not be as intrusive.

January 8, 2013 at 7:07 AM  
Anonymous David Wheeler said...

This is a rambling response to some of the commentaries to the Farmington Bay chicken baiting article. I am too inept to have been able to respond in the Forum itself, so please forgive this separate post. Here it is:

I find it amusing how appalled and indignant some of these commentators are about someone using farm-raised poultry to lure in a bird for photography. Now, I find the aesthetics of this type of photography lacking, it making the photo less "natural" for my own taste, but taking it beyond that strikes me as a bit overwrought.

The argument about poisoning raptors with hormones is a bit funny considering that this is food approved for humans to eat. Now, perhaps if one were to flood the ecosystem with truckloads of butterballs for an extended period of time, you might have a point (hormones & antibiotics are something to be very careful with), but I doubt that anything found in one frozen chicken would adversely affect a Harrier. If we want to worry about the eating habits of raptors, I suggest we concern ourselves with various pesticides (rodenticides, etc.) with which people attack the Harrier's natural prey, not to mention runoff from our birdwatching vehicles. The Farmington Bay ecosystem (and indeed most of our ecosystems) is poisoned far more by metals from hunters (though admittedly this is more of a problem for large-mammal eating raptors), a myriad of emissions from nearby refineries, runoff from people's lawns, dioxins from certain industries in the area, and the aforementioned drips from our cars (even a Prius will drip de minimis oil onto the road). So let's keep things in proportion.

As for the disturbance of this to the harrier, I guess it might be as disturbing as someone offering me a Blimpie veggie sub sandwich when I'm hungry (thank you sir, may I please have another?)--I doubt there is any trauma associated with that act.

As for pishing, using playback, etc., I agree it is important to be very careful. Some species are very sensitive to human intrusion and we should do all we can to minimize any disturbance to such species, including silent approach (how do you like it when someone strange and huge sneaks up on you?). And any one bird, even a resilient species/individual, should not be overpished, overchased, or over-lured with playback (we all need some downtime). It has been suggested by some wise birders that a judicious use of tapes can get the target bird to pop up quickly, saving it the trauma of "considerately quiet" birders tramping about its habitat for any longer than necessary, possibly crushing plants and other habitat features important to the bird in the process. Better to briefly play you iPod, see the bird, and leave quickly. But don't work the poor bird up into a territorial froth by continuing the playback. It's one thing for the bird to hear a potential intruder/buddy and then have the virtual intruder/buddy disappear. It's another thing to frustrate the bird's attempts to establish contact for a long time, raising its stress hormones and even possibly driving it off . There is a fine balance in there somewhere. Use your judgement.

We have come a long way since the days Audubon blowing away every bird he saw to study it, and there is more we could certainly do to improve the lives of our bird "friends," but do let's keep things in perspective and concentrate on the true problems out there rather than threatening the lower intestinal tract of some clever photographer over a silly supermarket chicken (yes, Ron, I am calling you out over your odd fantasies).

On a lighter, facetious note, I am tempted to ask with a grin why we are assuming the chicken was purchased from Smiths rather than the organic aisle at Whole Foods. Perhaps the chicken was even free-range, locally grown, and fairly traded... But that's the subject of another post entirely.

January 8, 2013 at 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Ron Dudley said...


I considered responding in a serious and thoughtful manner regarding exactly why baiting in general, and this baiting in particular, upsets me so, and to your interpretation of my "odd fantasies".

But then I realized that any attempt at having a thoughtful and logical discussion with someone who thinks baiting raptors with a chicken is "clever" would simply be a waste of my time so you won't be getting any more of it.


January 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Ron: I think David is just trying to point out that in the grand scheme of things--it is all relatively minutiae. We get behind an idea, or a set of ideas, and beliefs, and have strong convictions about them, and say things for instance like, "I'd like to stuff this chicken up one of the baiter's bodily orifices!". I say right on, where David seemed to find it "amusing".

We all see things from our own point of views, and the great things is we don't have to agree with one another!

January 8, 2013 at 1:21 PM  
Anonymous deborah drain said...

When I first saw this post, I thought why would a chicken be at FBMA? I did not consider that someone would use bait to photograph raptors. I have never thought about baiting birds in this way, but then I guess I am a bird baiter as I love to have them close and to watch them, so I feed them. The song birds that visit my feeders then become bait for the raptors that frequent my yard.

I did get quite a chuckle out of Dave's post and I have to agree. From an aesthetic perspective, baiting for photographs probably not so good. I would have loved if the photographs of the 100+ Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and 50+ Common Redpolls I was privledged to observe at my in-laws feeder in Reed Point, MT this Christmas had been taken without the aid of feeders. But they were there along with American Tree and Song Sparrows, House Finches, Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, Northern Flickers, and Pinyon Jays because it was very cold (below zero and snow cover) and it was a wonderful opportunity for some good photos. Also provided my husband with three life birds.

I love nothing more than posting up in a good birding location, blending into the environment, sitting quietly, and just observing the comings and goings of birds and anything else than comes along. It is wonderful to observe animals in a natural setting without interfering with them, but for me, these opportunities are limited. So while I am not sure that baiting raptors with a chicken for photographs is really appropriate, from a logical perspective what is the difference between a chicken and black oil sunflower seeds, they are both bird food.

As an ex MT dept of Ag employee who worked on the EPA funded pesticide enforcement program analyzing anything that died as a result of inappropriate pesticide use, my hope is that the chicken was used only for bait for photographs, and not filled with strychnine or someother poison to kill predators, i.e., coyotes, fox, etc., which unfortunately is still not that uncommon.

January 8, 2013 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

I was hoping we would stick to the single issue of baiting raptors.

Playing tapes, walking through grasslands, feeding backyard birds, letting cats outdoors, rehabbing injured birds, photographing nesting birds, etc. are all related in a way but I was just curious of people's thoughts on this subject instead of making circular arguments.

One question I have. Is this a legal action within refuge property?

Also, there are many reasons that have not been expressed on why baiting can and is detrimental.....for another day.

January 8, 2013 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Jerry: One thing I thought of yesterday, regardless of anything else, is that the action of throwing a store bought turkey onto the side of the road is littering. If you see someone do it, take down their plate number, and call the police. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it really is littering--which to those that think the act of baiting for some reason is okay--is still illegal.

Nothing like a potential $250, $500, or $1000 fine for sheer laziness and stupidity...

January 9, 2013 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Just a note...I'm not calling anyone out or reporting anyone, just wanted make the post and see what the general feeling was.

January 9, 2013 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Ryan O'Donnell said...

Is there any chance that someone bought a chicken to eat and it went bad (maybe left in the freezer too long, or in the fridge on accident over a long holiday trip), so they decided that rather than waste the whole thing in the garbage they'd put it out where some animal could scavenge on it? That sounds like something I might do if I found myself in that situation (although I wouldn't usually let an expensive chicken go to waste!). For example, an oranges that dry out before getting eaten usually end up in the backyard tree for orioles and hummingbirds in the spring. It seems possible to me that this wasn't necessarily a nefarious, selfish act.

January 9, 2013 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This doesn't seem that much different than someone feeding bird seed in their backyard. Yes, this seems somewhat repulsive at first glance, but the concept is largely the same.

January 9, 2013 at 7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main issues I have with baiting raptorsā€¦.I'm not discussing other bird issues here, just baiting for photography:

1. Photographers bait to get photos for selfish reasons, none of which is to "help" the birds.

2. Teaching other people this behavior who might not be so ethical, and they may assume going to nests or baiting owls with mice is OK.

3. If they are baiting with live mice, they may introduce a foreign food source that is possibly diseased or breeds with the native population

4. I find the photos less desirable when I know they are baited, aren't wildlife shows on TV less desirable when they are set-up?

5. I dislike when magazines and books reward photographers by publishing these types of photos

6. Birds are extremely territorial over food sources, and fight over bait potentially injuring each other. I have seen this at least 5 times with documentation.

7. Birds become used to "chickens" as food sources and have been caught in baited snap-traps at Farmington Bay resulting in death. I Have seen this with my own eyes!

8. Baiting may help the weak to surviveā€¦.

Let me ask 2 final questions:

Why is it that the baiters never show the photo above (bird on bait), they only show the photos where the bait is not visible? Why is that?

And, why not just forego the bait and side with a more ethical way of photographing birds? Why not?

January 10, 2013 at 7:13 PM  
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March 30, 2013 at 12:39 PM  

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