The American Birding Association Code of Ethics

Many sports, outdoor activities, and hobbies have a code of ethics, be it formal or passed on by word of mouth or gradual indoctrination by more experienced participants. Such codes exist for a variety of reasons including safety, consideration for others, respect for the facility or the environment, and preservation of the sanctity and continuation of the activity, among others. It may come as a surprise to beginning bird watchers that there is a serious code of ethics to which participants are expected to adhere.

The American Birding Association (ABA) has outlined a clear and logical code of ethics for bird watchers to help ensure the most positive experience in every birding situation and help secure the activity from negative criticism by non-birders who share a love of the outdoors. The code even addresses the responsibilities of bird feeding enthusiasts because they are an important demographic of the birding community as a whole. Of course no one is forced to adhere to any code of ethics, but if you rub most serious hobbyists the wrong way by intentionally violating the code, you can probably expect some very heartfelt backlash.


There are four key parts, each of which is quite general but has several more specific subparts, to ABA Code of Ethics. The first part of the code is to “Support the welfare of birds and their environment.” That is pretty self explanatory, but also very general. The ABA suggests an ethical birder should be on board with things such as protecting habitat, not stressing out birds by chasing them through the bush, cutting new trails and damaging habitat, or pishing at them until you are out of breath. Nor should you engage in the excessive use of cameras and playback, and always be sure to keep a respectable distance from nests, roosts, and crucial foraging spots. The second part o the code is to “Respect the law, and the rights of others.” By this the ABA means that you should not trespass, break any laws of the road, or violate trail rules in public areas. Furthermore, you must respect the rights of others to be in the same area as you, which means it is your duty to display common courtesy for other birders and anyone else engaging in legal outdoor recreational activities. The third part of the code is to “Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.” Basically if you do anything to try and entice birds to be closer to where you reside, you are obligated to keep all artificially created bird environments sanitary and not unnecessarily expose your visitors to unnatural dangers, like cats or other domestic animals. The fourth and final part of the code states quite simply that, “Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.” This one is a little more complicated, but essentially addresses such things as respecting your birding partners, limiting your group size, and leading by example by being helpful to others and always following the birding code of ethics.

If you would like to familiarize your self with the all the details of the American Birding Association Code of Ethics, which you really should if you aspire to be a good and responsible birder, it is available in “About ABA” section of their website or by following the following link directly




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