Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: As Spring Arrives a Reminder to Keep up on our Birding Ethics


Spring is an incredible time of year. So many unbelievable and magical things are happening in the natural world that at times it seems to defy human understanding.

But like a nervous mother Hen, this is the time of year I worry the most about our birds, especially when I see a photo of a bird’s nest or hear talk of folks gathering too close to birds and places they should not be. So I thought it would be a good time to remind all of us that the first rule of birding, much like the Hippocratic Oath, is to do no harm.

As we enter the most amazing time in birding, nesting and migration season, birds more than any other time of year need to be protected and kept safe from needless stress, especially ones that are brought on by humans, well intentioned or otherwise.

Migratory birds as well as our year-round residents have it very tough. Window strikes, habitat loss, stray cats, lack of food and water sources, climate change, the list goes on. The last thing we want to do is to interfere with the lifecycle of birds that have fought so hard, through so many obstacles, and traveled so many miles, to be the reason that they do not survive the day.

But there are a few simple things we can remember to avoid to be sure that we and the birds have a good day outdoors for all concerned.

  • Keep a safe distance when observing or photographing birds, especially near nests – Getting too close and spending too much time near nesting birds can cause them to abandon the nest or cause the young to come out of the nest too soon. It also could interrupt getting enough food to their nestlings. Birds do not want to approach the nest if you are watching them. This is a way they avoid showing predators where their nest is, so keep a safe distance, take a look and move on quickly.
  • Avoid posting and telling people about the location of endangered species and where the nest of any bird may be located – This is especially true when it comes to threatened and endangered species and all owls. Owls are birds that need to rest during the day and hunt at night. It would be like me keeping you up all night and then expecting you to work all day … it usually does not go well.
  • Avoid playing calls in the field – Birds spend all their time feeding their young and defending their territory. If birders are playing calls the birds will not be doing their job of feeding the youngsters and defending against predators and rivals. Besides, I don’t want to hear a call that makes me run down the trail just to find it’s another birder playing an App. It won’t go well, I promise.

There are other rules too, like staying on designated trails, keeping your feeders and birdbath clean and respecting public property … topics for another day.

Spring is a wonderful time to be outside for all nature lovers especially birders By respecting our passion for birds and keeping in mind that the birds themselves are more vital than us getting a closer look or a perfect photograph we will teach the next generation the right way to enjoy birding and ensure that we are doing no harm to the future of birding and especially to the birds we love so much.

For more info on the American Birding Association’s Principal of Birding ethics click here

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