Birding – Code of Ethichs

This code of ethics sets out to provide guidelines for birdwatchers to ensure that their behaviour is exemplary at all times. All those who enjoy birds and birdwatching must respect wildlife, the environment and the rights of others. In any conflict of interest between birds and birdwatchers, the welfare of birds and their environment is a priority.

Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

  1. Supporting the protection of habitats is vital for birds.
  2. To avoid causing undue stress in birds by exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording or filming.
    1. Limit the use of recordings or other methods of attracting birds. Never use such methods in areas where there is a high concentration of birds or for attracting any species that is in danger of extinction, of special interest for conservation or is rare in your local area.
    2. Keep away from nests, courting display areas or important feeding places. If it is necessary to observe, photograph, film or record birds for an extended period of time in places such as those described, try to blend into the natural vegetation.
    3. Restrict the use of artificial light when filming or taking photographs, especially for close-ups.
  3. Before letting others know of the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings and other people in the area. Let others know only when you consider that access can be controlled, disturbance minimised and permission has been obtained expressly from the land-owners. The nest locations of rare birds should be made known only to the proper conservation authorities.
  4. Keep to roads, paths and tracks whenever possible, otherwise try to disturb the habitat as little as possible.

Respect the law and the rights of others.

  1. Do not enter private property without the permission of the owner.
  2. Follow all laws, rules and regulations that govern the use of roads and public areas, both in your country and abroad.
  3. Be courteous in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behaviour will generate goodwill with birdwatchers and the general public.

Ensure bird feeders, nest boxes and other artificial bird environments are safe.

  1. Keep dispensers, water and food clean. Make sure that they are free of disease or decay. It is important to feed birds continually in adverse weather conditions.
  2. Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.
  3. If you try to attract birds to a specific area, ensure that they are not exposed to predation from cats and other domestic animals.

Group birdwatching, be this organised or unplanned, requires special care.

In addition to the obligations described in the rules set out above, each individual in the group has a number of responsibilities:

  1. Respect the interests, rights and skills of fellow birdwatchers, as well as people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience, except where code 1(c) applies. Be especially helpful in the case of beginners.
  2. If you are witness to unethical birdwatching behaviour, assess the situation and intervene only if you consider this to be wise. If you decide to intervene, inform those individuals that their behaviour is not appropriate and try, within reason, to make them refrain from such behaviour. If they continue, make a note of the details and notify the appropriate persons.

Group Leader Responsibilities (amateur and professional trips and tours):

  1. Be a model of ethical behaviour for your group. Teach by word and example.
  2. Try to ensure that groups are kept to a size that does not have a negative effect on the environment and does not interfere with others using the same area.
  3. Make sure that every member of the group knows and puts this code into practice.
  4. Find out and inform your group about any special circumstances applicable to the areas you visit (for example, if sound recorders are forbidden).
  5. Be aware that professional tour operators bear a special responsibility to place the welfare of birds and the benefits of public knowledge above their commercial interests. Ideally, guides should keep a record of bird sightings, document unusual occurrences and send their records to the respective organisations.

*This code is an adaptation of the code of ethics of the American Birding Association (