Birding Ethics


Quiz Time!



Who among us is expected to respect wildlife, the habitats that sustain wildlife, and the rights of others who enjoy wildlife?



A. Atlanta Audubon Society field trip leaders and workshop instructors

B. Atlanta Audubon Society field trip and workshop participants

C. Atlanta Audubon Society volunteer Board members, paid staff, and active membership

D. Atlanta Audubon Society Master Birder students and graduates

E. Atlanta Audubon Society Photo Contest photographers

F. Any good steward of natural environments and the life they sustain

G. All of the above <-----correct!



Who among us is exempt from upholding both the letter and spirit of the American Birding Association's Principles of Birding Ethics?



A. Photographers

B. Seasoned, highly experienced birders

C. New, eager, beginning birders

D. Our friends of today who emulate us in the field

E. Young birders of tomorrow who emulate us in the field

F. None of the above <-----correct!



In any conflict of interest between birds and birders, whose welfare and interests come first?



A. Birds and their environment <-----correct!

B. Birders



What IS the ABA's Principles of Birding Ethics?



Below is a paraphrased version of the ABA's Principles of Birding Ethics, the code of ethics developed by the American Birding Association many years ago and officially adopted by the Atlanta Audubon Society on March 12, 2013. The full, original version is available here.


Code of Birding Ethics


1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment (How to Behave Around Birds)


Stay on existing roads, trails, and paths. Do not "tromp" grassland birds' nesting or wintering territories in heavily birded areas. To avoid stressing and exposing birds to danger, never use playback or similar attractants in heavily birded areas. Never play back recordings or use attractants around locally rare, state-, or federally-protected species, a Georgia list of which can be found here. Regarding playback in other situations -- exercise restraint at all times. When observing, photographing, sound-recording, or filming birds, keep well back from nests, colonies, roosts, display areas, and feeding sites, and use natural cover or a blind for extended observation. Divulge the sites of rare nesting birds only to proper conservation authorities, and do not mass-advertise rare birds unless access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission granted from private land-owners when applicable. Ask yourself: what is best for birds?


2. Respect the law and the rights of others (How to Behave Around Birders and Others)


Do not trespass on private property. Get permission from landowners before entering their property for birding, and use common courtesy with all people at all times to perpetuate positive public relations among birders, non-birders, law enforcement, and the media. Be familiar with and follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad. Make personal and public safety a priority at all times, and use common sense.


3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe (The Birder's Hippocratic Oath)


Do not try to attract birds to your own home or other manmade environs unless you can provide safety from predation by domestic animals such as cats and from dangers posed by artificial hazards. If you have cats, keep them indoors and away from wild birds. Encourage others to do the same. If you provide nest boxes, maintain and clean them regularly. If you choose to feed birds during harsh winter weather, it's most responsible to feed them consistently and predictably. Be sure to keep feeders, food, and water free from decay and disease at all times of year. Again, ask yourself: what is safest for birds?


4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care. (Birds Well With Others)


When birding in groups, special responsibilities apply in addition to #1 and #2 above. Be especially helpful toward and respectful of beginning birders. Mentoring of newcomers is encouraged. Share your space with participants of legitimate outdoor activities, respecting the rights and interests of birders and others. If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation and intervene if prudent. If interceding, respectfully 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 Leader Responsibilities:


Keep your group to a responsible size that limits environmental impacts and doesn't interfere with others' activities. Inform your group in advance of legal restrictions, such as the prohibition of playback*** in National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and other federal lands, and enforce such restrictions. Through both word and example, be an exemplary ethical role model. Your behavior should be the rule of the Code -- not the exception. Make participants aware that the AAS endorses this Code of Ethics. Leaders should keep track of sightings, document rarities, and submit rare bird reports to appropriate organizations. If you lead groups professionally outside of AAS, please place the welfare of birds and the benefits of citizen science ahead of your commercial interests.



***Code of Federal Regulations - Title 36: Parks, Forests, and Public Property (52 FR 35240, Sept. 18, 1987); Chapter 1; Part 2.2: Wildlife Protection; (a) the following are prohibited: (2) The feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentional disturbing of wildlife nesting, breeding or other activities.


Code of Federal Regulations - Title 36: Parks, Forests, and Public Property (48 FR 30282, June 30, 1983); Chapter 1; Part 2.12: Audio Disturbances; (a) the following are prohibited: (1) Operating motorized equipment or machinery such as an electric generating plant, motor vehicle, motorized toy, or an audio device, such as a radio, television set, tape deck or musical instrument, in a manner: (i) That exceeds a noise level of 60 decibels measured on the A-weighted scale at 50 feet; or, if below that level, nevertheless; (ii) makes noise which is unreasonable, considering the nature and purpose of the actor's conduct, location, time of day or night, purpose for which the area was established, impact on park users, and other factors that would govern the conduct of a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances.


Code of Federal Regulations - Title 50: Wildlife and Fisheries (Oct. 2012); Chapter 1; Subchapter C: The National Wildlife Refuge System; Part 27: Prohibited Acts; Section 51: Disturbing, injuring, and damaging plants and animals; (a) Disturbing, injuring, spearing, poisoning, destroying, collecting or attempting to disturb, injure, spear, poison, destroy or collect any plant or animal on any national wildlife refuge is prohibited except by special permit unless otherwise permitted under this subchapter C.


Code of Federal Regulations - Title 50: Wildlife and Fisheries (Oct. 2012); Chapter 1; Subchapter C: The National Wildlife Refuge System; Part 27: Prohibited Acts; Section 72: Audio equipment; The operation or use of audio devices including radios, recording and playback devices, loudspeakers, television sets, public address systems, and musical instruments so as to cause unreasonable disturbance to others in the vicinity is prohibited.