Birding Ethics

Don’t you hate it when the doorbell or telephone rings just as you settle down to dinner or a nap? While mere nuisances to us, disruptions in feeding and nesting routines can spell disaster for birds, especially the cumulative effect of frequent disruptions, a common occurrence at busy sites such as beaches and waterways. When a nesting bird is forced to fly, it may leave eggs or young exposed to temperature extremes or predators. A migratory bird may be exhausted and hungry from a long flight—it needs to rest and eat. With care and common sense, birders can help protect the birds they love to watch.

Consider these points:

• Stay back from concentrations of nesting or resting waterbirds—a spotting scope may be a better choice than binoculars.

• Walk around groups of birds on the beach rather than forcing them to fly.

• Sit or crouch so that you appear smaller.

• Keep movements slow and steady, rather than fast or sporadic.

• If viewing from your car, stay inside as long as possible. It acts as a viewing “blind” and the birds are less likely to fly if they don’t recognize you as human.

• Stay on roads, trails and paths to minimize habitat disturbance.

• Do you occasionally use recordings to attract birds? If so, remember not to overuse them, or to try to attract rare or protected species. Avoid using recordings in heavily birded areas, and do not use them to attract birds during migration and the breeding season.

• Follow the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics and share it with others. Be a good ambassador for birding by respecting wildlife and the rights of others.

Additional Links

Audubon's Birding Etiquette

Birding Ethics at

Nature Photographers Ethics Resource Page


Further Reading