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Birding Etiquette

Birdwatching is a fascinating experience and one that is replete with patience and keen observation. As a guest within their natural habitat, it is therefore of extreme importance that all activities which are undertaken are kept at minimum disturbance, particularly to nesting colonies and in the vicinity of sensitive species. Below are a few guidelines:

  • Avoid pursuing a bird that is agitated by your presence. Even if the bird does not fly away, your close approach will raise the bird‘s stress levels. 

  • Refrain from approaching nesting birds, nesting colonies, roosts and feeding sites, as this can cause stress, predation, or nest failure.

  • Do not attempt to touch the birds, unless it is absolutely necessary to assist. For example, to remove an injured bird from immediate danger.

  • During nesting season, be extremely cautious as your actions may harm unseen eggs or the young of highly camouflaged species.

  • Never alter the habitat for a better view or for a photograph. Under no circumstances should you remove a branch or piece of vegetation that is obscuring your view, since this act will hamper the bird’s (or nest’s) ability to remain camouflaged from predators.

  • Do not use spotlights or drones.

  • Avoid flash photography of nocturnal birds at night and be cautious with the use of laser pointers. Never point the beam at or too close to a bird. Rather, direct it to a prominent branch or piece of vegetation in near proximity and verbally guide others to observe from that point to the bird.

  • While photographing or filming, exercise restraint and if possible, use a hide, blind or natural cover in delicate environments.

  • Be mindful when using recorded bird calls. Avoid using playback in heavily birded areas, during nesting season and in close proximity to sensitive or endangered species.

  • Additionally, do not exceed the volume of the bird’s call and limit pre-recordings or playbacks to no more than 30 seconds. Allow more silence than playback. Pause for a minute or two, then repeat if there is no visible response. Additionally:

    • If the bird does respond, decrease the frequency of playback or cease it entirely.

    • If the bird does not show, wait quietly or return to the area after a half hour and try again. Some birds will respond vocally, while others may approach silently.

    • Under no circumstances should you continuously play a recording of a bird’s vocalization, especially using external speakers at loud volume.

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to go birding and discover some new avian beauties!