Birding is a hobby which engages millions of people. Its very popularity can create problems, for the birds, the larger population, and birders themselves. The American Birding Association is the largest organization of, and for, field birders in North America. It has developed “Principles of Birding Ethics” and a “Code of Birding Ethics” for its members and for promotion and distribution to the general public.
As we enjoy birds, whether at our backyard feeders, or as birdwatchers in the field, it is incumbent upon us that our hobby not do harm. So with the good of birds and bird lovers in mind, here are those principles and that code.
PRINCIPLES OF BIRDING ETHICS
Everyone who enjoys birds and birding must always respect wildlife, its environment, and the rights of others. In any conflict of interest between birds and birders, the welfare of the birds and their environment comes first.
CODE OF BIRDING ETHICS
l. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.
(a) Support the protection of important bird habitat.
(b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger. Exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming. Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area. Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, if there is a need for extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, try to use a blind or hide, and take advantage of natural cover. Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.
(c) Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance can be minimized, and permission. has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.
(d) Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist; otherwise keep habitat disturbance to a minimum.
2. Respect the law and the rights of others
(a) Do not enter private property without the owner's explicit permission.
(b) Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad. .
(c) Practice common courtesy in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike.
3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.
(a) Keep dispensers, water, and food clean and free of decay or disease. It is important to feed birds continually during harsh weather.
(b) Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.
(c) If you are attracting birds to an area, ensure the birds are not exposed to predation from cats and other domestic animals, or dangers posed by artificial hazards.
4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care. Each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out in 2, has responsibilities as a Group Member.
(a) Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, as well as those of people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience, except where code l(c) applies. Be especially helpful to beginning birders.
(b) If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.
Note: The American Birding Association developed and promotes the Birding Ethics and allows them to be reproduced and distributed without restriction. This column did not include “Group Leader Responsibilities.”