Birding is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the country. Formerly known as “birdwatchers,” birders come from all walks of life, running the gamut of professions, age, and locales. There are as many varieties of birders as there are birds – and as many reasons we enjoy it.
Whether deep in the woods or standing at the kitchen window, birding strengthens our connection to the outdoors. Birds draw us in with their complex behaviors, beautiful plumage and captivating melodies. They can be observed day and night, alone or with a group, competitively or casually. I do most of my birding while engaging in other activities like walking in the park, weeding the garden, and sipping my morning coffee. Birders also contribute mightily to the scientific world by reporting their observations through apps like Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird and Merlin Bird ID.
If you want to get a little more serious about your birding, try challenging yourself: quickly check off a list, learn to identify calls, or improve your observation skills by identifying birds in flight.
Regardless of what form birding takes, we are all held to an important code of ethics that ensures birders and birds alike are only positively impacted by this ever-growing pursuit.
1. Respect and promote birds and their environment.
(a) Support the conservation of birds and their habitats.
- Engage in and promote bird-friendly practices whenever possible, such as keeping cats and other domestic animals indoors or controlled.
- Act to prevent window strikes .
- Maintain safe feeding stations.
- Landscape with native plants.
- Drink shade-grown coffee.
- Advocate for conservation policies.
(b) Avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger.
- Be particularly cautious around active nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display sites, and feeding sites.
- Limit the use of recordings and other audio methods of attracting birds in heavily birded areas, and for species that are threatened, endangered or not common to the area,
- Always exercise caution and restraint when photographing, recording, or otherwise approaching birds.
(c) Always minimize habitat disturbance.
- Consider the benefits of staying on trails, preserving snags, birding in small groups, and following leave no trace principles including disposing of waste properly, leave what you find and traveling on durable surfaces.
2. Respect and promote the birding community and its individual members.
(a) Be an ethical role model by following this Code and leading by example. Always bird and report with honesty and integrity.
(b) Respect the interests, rights, and skill levels of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience and be especially helpful to beginning birders.
(c) Share bird observations freely, provided such reporting would not violate other sections of this Code, as birders, ornithologists, and conservationists derive considerable benefit from publicly available bird sightings.
(d) Approach instances of perceived unethical birding behavior with sensitivity and respect; try to resolve the matter in a positive manner, keeping in mind that perspectives vary. Use the situation as an opportunity to teach by example and to introduce more people to this Code.
(e) In group birding situations, share your knowledge of this Code of Ethics with the group to ensure the group does not unduly interfere with others using the same area.
3. Respect and promote the law and the rights of others.
(a) Never enter private property without the landowner’s permission. Respect the interests of and interact positively with people living in the area where you are birding.
(b) Familiarize yourself with and follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing activities at your birding location. In particular, be aware of regulations related to birds, such as disturbance of protected nesting areas or sensitive habitats, and the use of audio or food lures.
By following these ethics, we ensure that both birders and the birds we admire experience safe and beneficial interactions.
Check out these past articles on birding for beginners