Birding Ethics

Based on the American Birding Association’s Code of 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.


1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment

1(a) Support the protection of important bird habitat.1(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. Also avoid excessive use of playback devices during the nesting season. Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.1(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 or county, state or federal authorities. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.1(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.

2(a) Do not enter private or government property without the owner’s explicit permission.2(b) Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing the use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad.2(c) Practice common courtesy in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike. Remember: the non-birders you interact with, or those who see you birding, might make generalizations (fairly or not) about all birders based on their impression of you. Always take advantage of an opportunity to teach nonbirders about birds and why they matter.

3. Group birding requires special care.

Each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out in Items #1 and #2, has responsibilities as a Group Member.

3(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 1(c) applies. Be especially helpful to beginning birders.

3(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.

Group Leaders:

3(c) Be an exemplary ethical role model for the group. Teach through word and example. Beginners will mimic what you do.

3(d) Ensure everyone in the group knows of and practices this code.

3(e) Learn and inform the group of any special circumstances applicable to the areas being visited (e.g., no tape recorders allowed).