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Bird Watching Basics

Bird Watching Basics

Download our Bird Watching Guide for Beginners for all you need to know to get started.

Birding Ethics

The following is adapted from the America Birding Association’s “Birding Code of Ethics.” This list focuses on aspects of the code that are the most pertinent to New Hampshire birding.
Birders must always act in ways that do not endanger the welfare of birds

This includes keeping your distance from birds when you observe and photograph them. You should never approach a bird so closely as to flush or disturb it.

Birders must always act in ways that do not harm the natural environment

This means staying on existing trails and not trampling hay field, crops, or fragile habitat.

Birders must always respect the law and the rights of others

The biggest issue here is respect for private property. Never trespass on posted property. Always obtain permission from the landowner before entering private lands. If property is fenced off or gated, then it is safest to assume that the landowner does not want intruders. Never assume that it is acceptable to enter private lands. Always be careful about where and how you park your car. Never park on someone’s lawn or in anyone’s driveway. Never block a gate, woods road, path, or other access. Lack of proper respect for the rights and privacy of others is what causes the biggest problems in our area. Please consider all of your actions carefully. Will they promote good will between birders and landowners?

Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care

Limit group sizes in areas that are not conducive to large crowds. If you need to, divide your throng into smaller groups. Take care not to be noisy or unruly. Never do anything that will make birders unwelcome.

From time to time, we all need a reminder about proper birding etiquette. There are numerous cases where poor behavior has cost birders access to some fine birding areas.

We all need to be very cautious about taking other people, especially large groups, into areas that are not public property and not really open to public recreation. These places include golf courses, waste water treatment plants, condominium communities with common areas, farm fields, orchards, etc. While such places may tolerate small groups of well-behaved birders, they will not endure large unruly groups or even small groups of ill-behaved birders. Access to such places can be denied at any time.

Obviously, when there is an unusual bird in the state, we all want to hear about it and observe it. However, we must make certain that our conduct is above reproach.

Behavior by excited birders “anxious” to get a closer look or better photograph can disturb not only the birds but also the other birders watching nearby. At least one observer of the great gray owl in Rochester last winter was very upset by the behavior of other birders. He felt they were harassing the bird by chasing it to get a closer look. He questioned the ethics of even reporting such a sighting to the general birding community if it could harm the bird.

Read our article about Snowy Owl Viewing and Photography Ethics.