Birding Ethics

Subject: Birding Ethics
From: "RAOU Conservation (Hugo Phillipps)" <>
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 09:08:09 +1100 (EST)
Like Richard Jordan, I am a little surprised that the original call by the
RAOU for suggestions on guidelines had such little response compared with
the recent spate of messages.  The RAOU Conservation is intending to produce
some position paper on this issue.  Since the ABA code has been mentioned a
couple of times as a possible model for Australia, I reproduce it below for
the interest of, and further comment by, BIRDING-AUS subscribers.  I feel
that there are some things that need to modified for Australian conditions
(such as references to bird feeders), and maybe it is a little vague in
places.  However - please let me know what you think.


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.
(a)     Support the protection of important bird habitat.
(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;
Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and
important feeding sites.  In such sensitive areas, if there is a need for
extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, try to use a blind
or hide, and take advantage of natural cover.
Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for
(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 minimised, and
permission has been obtained from private land-owners.  The sites of rare
nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.
(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.
(a)     Do not enter private property without the owner's explicit permission.
(b)     Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and
public areas, both at home and abroad.
(c)     Practise common courtesy in contacts with other people.  Your exemplary
behaviour will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike.
 3.     Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird
environments are safe.
(a)     Keep dispensers, water, and food clean, and free of decay or disease.
It is important to feed birds continually during harsh weather.
(b)     Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.
(c)     If you are attracting birds to an area, ensure the birds are not exposed
to predation from cats and other domestic animals, or dangers posed by
artificial hazards.
4.      Group birding, whether organised or impromptu, 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.
(a)     Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, 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 to beginning birders.
(b)     If you witness unethical birding behaviour, 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 behaviour continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals
or organizations.
Group Leader Responsibilities [amateur and professional trips and tours].
(c)     Be an exemplary ethical role model for the group.  Teach through word
and example.
(d)     Keep groups to a size that limits impact on the environment, and does
not interfere with others using the same area.
(e)     Ensure everyone in the group knows of and practises this code.
(f)     Learn and inform the group of any special circumstances applicable to
the areas being visited (eg., no tape recorders allowed).
(g)     Acknowledge that professional tour companies bear a special
responsibility to place the welfare of birds and the benefits of public
knowledge ahead of the company's commercial interests.  Ideally, leaders
should keep track of tour sightings, document unusual occurrences, and
submit records to appropriate organisations.


Regards,  Hugo.

Hugo Phillipps,
RAOU Conservation & Liaison,
Australian Bird Research Centre,
415 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn East, VIC 3123, Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9882 2622. Fax: +61 3 9882 2677.
Email: <>
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