Backyard Birding Ethics

As a bird-lover, I want my birding experience to be gratifying – for both me and the birds. I want to enjoy their company while making sure my presence doesn’t cause them harm.   And I’m not alone.  In fact, Ornithologists, Audubon members, birding organizations and festivals, and nature tour operators from around the world have communicated various and extensive guidelines and protocols for watching and photographing birds, all of which beg the question: How aware are you of the “bird” in birding?

From the plethora of suggestions I have a few personal favorites, especially for adhering to in the privacy of my own backyard.


  • Promote the welfare of birds and their environment
  • Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are clean and safe for the birds
  • Turn your cell phones off and keep noise levels down
  • Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography
  • Walk away if your presence adds stress to the birds
  • Avoid from handling birds or eggs as much as possible
  • Share your sightings and pictures


  • Make sudden movements that might startle the birds
  • Flush birds or disturb them to make them fly
  • Trample sensitive ground cover or break branches to take pictures
  • Keep parents away from nests during incubation or feeding
  • Use audio playback near nesting or heavily birded areas, or to attract threatened or endangered species
  • Keep tired and hungry migrants from resting or feeding
  • Announce to the public the location of a rare bird before alerting the appropriate birding organizations first

Great suggestions! Looks like I’ll need to update my backyard birding manifesto!