Code of Practice for Birders

This Code of Practice is endorsed by the African Bird Club (ABC), Neotropical Birding and Conservation (NBC), the Oriental Bird Club (OBC), and the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia (OSME) and has been published on their websites in substantially the same form.

We recommend all our members and supporters should follow these five key principles wherever they are birding:
• The interests of the birds come first.
• Show respect for habitats and the environment.
• Show respect for local laws and customs.
• Think about the interests of wildlife and local people before passing on news of a rare bird, especially during the breeding season.
• Be a good ambassador for ABC when birding.

Following these principles means:

• Whether you are particularly interested in photography, sound recording or just birding, remember always to put the interests of the birds first.

Avoid going too close to birds or disturbing their habitats, particularly near a nest site. And do not disturb vegetation around a nest – if a bird flies away or makes repeated alarm calls, you’re too close.
Intentionally or recklessly disturbing some birds at or near their nest is illegal in many countries and even where not against the law, such disturbance should be avoided.

Sound playback may be the only way to see some forest birds but should always be used responsibly – remember that repeatedly playing a recording of song or calls to encourage a bird to respond can cause it distress and may divert it from ultimately feeding its young. So, never use playback to attract a species near its nest. Playback volume should always be kept to an effective minimum – a good principle is “keep the volume down, and keep it short”. And local guides should not be pressed to continue playback once a bird has been seen.

Photography of birds at the nest should be discouraged, unless achievable at distance using a long lens. And birds should not be harassed when one or two photographers have failed to obtain their “perfect shot”.
Roosting birds should not be disturbed with flash photography. For nocturnal species, close flash photography or direct spotlight illumination may impose a long period of dark adaptation recovery and should, therefore, be avoided.
Driving or “pushing” of birds, particularly secretive species, from their preferred habitat to afford better views for visiting birders and photographers should also be avoided.

• Always show respect for habitats and the environment.

Remember that birding sites are often rich in biodiversity – it is not just the birds you might disturb.
Take care not to damage habitats, and leave a site as you found it – do not pollute it or leave reminders of your stay.

• Always show respect for local laws and customs.

Consider those that live and work in the area where you are birding, and use local services and guides where possible. Raising awareness of the benefits to local communities of trade from visiting birders may, ultimately, help the birds themselves.
Respect privacy and land ownership, and always seek permission first if you are in doubt about entering an area.
Always obey local rules and follow instructions given in national parks and reserves that are there to protect wildlife.

• Rare birds are always of interest but with the growing numbers of birders and photographers visiting the ABC region, you may not be the only person potentially disturbing a rare bird and its habitat. Think carefully about the effects of releasing news if you find a new site or rare breeding bird.

If you’ve been birding in the ABC region, pass on your rare bird sightings to the BirdLife Partner in that country or, if there isn’t one, to ABC. Your records could be vital in helping to protect sites and species in the country or territory you’ve visited.

• As an ABC member or supporter, it is important to be a good ambassador and demonstrate a high standard of birding behaviour.

By following this code, you will be helping promote responsible birding that will ultimately help protect the birds, their habitats and benefit local people.
Lead by example and use this code to explain to others what behaviour is considered acceptable by the wider birding community, and sensitively challenge the minority of birders, photographers and guides who behave inappropriately.

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