How to Behave While Birdwatching

A set of guidelines for respectful, thoughtful, and yet enjoyable birding
Text by: Sustain Team

When out watching birds let’s remember that we are sharing their space and might unwittingly cause them harm. So it helps to always be conscious of any disturbance that we might cause, and take steps to minimize it.

“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.”
– American Birding Association

Respect the habitat
Birds know no boundaries, and as birders we often find ourselves watching birds in open fields, around villages, or while driving in the countryside. Let’s be respectful of the surroundings and not harm the habitat, whether in a protected area or outside. For example, driving off-road in grassy areas could damage nests and eggs of ground-nesting birds and is best avoided.

Keep a distance
It is important to keep a safe distance from birds, especially during the breeding season when birds are at their most vulnerable. If observing a nest, make sure you are far enough away or partially hidden behind a tree, bush or artificial hide, and try not to spend too much time near the nest as it may attract the attention of predators and cause undue stress to the birds. In extreme situations, birds are known to abandon nests if disturbed.

Remember to carry a good pair of binoculars and a bird guide when you go out to watch birds. Photo: 4thebirds/Shutterstock

Remember to carry a good pair of binoculars and a bird guide when you go out to watch birds. Photo: 4thebirds/Shutterstock

Respect local people
Birding often attracts the attention of local people who may be suspicious of strangers looking through binoculars. Sometimes it helps to explain what you’re doing and offer a peek through the binoculars especially if there are any curious children around. While birding, be careful not to trespass onto private property, or seek permission first.

Feeding and attracting birds
Feeding of wild birds, though well-intentioned, is not generally needed in the tropics where natural food sources are abundant year-round. Large amounts of artificial feeding can create an imbalance in bird populations, especially in cities, as pigeons or crows are often the ones that benefit. However, if you wish to help birds, do put out water bowls in the hot summers when water sources are hard to find. Keep the bowl near a leafy bush and not in the open. When travelling to far-off places to watch birds, birders or their guides sometimes use playback (broadcasting the call or song) to attract birds into the open. It’s best not to use playback, as it might disrupt breeding behaviour or attract predators. Any playback that is carried out should be minimal, and done with utmost sensitivity to the welfare of the birds.

Excerpted with permission from Handbook for Bird Educators by Garima Bhatia, Abhisheka Krishnagopal and Suhel Quader, published for Early Bird by Nature Conservation Foundation, Price: Rs 150. You can buy the print copy and read the online version here.

Sustain Team
Sustain Team

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