Tips for ethical birding

Meghan Doran, Assistant Education & Recreation Manager

Prothonotary warbler photo by Sheila Stransky

What does “ethical birding” mean to you?

How can birding be ethical? The answer is quite simple - it is making decisions and taking actions that are based on moral principles and personal beliefs of doing no harm while pursuing an activity, in this case, birding.

Least bittern photo by Bob Roach

Many groups and individuals use “Leave No Trace” principles to guide them in the outdoors. However, the lines become gray when it comes to observing wildlife, especially birds. Sometimes, our passions or desires for a thrill can override our logical thought process. Here are a few tips to abide by to become a more ethical birder:

Tip #1: One of the best, most important way to love wildlife, is to show them respect. Be mindful. These birds are using all their energy to survive and reproduce. We are lucky to be surrounded by beautiful parks where we can safely observe these awesome creatures in their natural habitat.

Tip #2: We all know that 2020 was the year of social distancing. Keep it up! Whether you are observing a bird in flight or on a nest, observe from afar. The best tools for watching wildlife are binoculars or a spotting scope.

Scarlet tanager photo by Doug Dawes

Tip #3: My last tip for becoming an ethical birder is to tread lightly and stay on designated trails. Fight the temptation to follow birds off the path. Help protect the areas that many of our species use for cover, food, or nesting. Any disturbance can make a great impact by scaring a bird off their nest or roosting spot, or away from a food source. Remember, many migratory birds such as warblers have traveled thousands of miles from their wintering grounds in South and Central America to use habitats in our parks.

So, now that you are enlightened, what does ethical birding mean to YOU?

Please visit our website for more tips and information on birding in Summit Metro Parks.

Summit Metro Parks manages 14,000 acres, 16 parks and more than 150 miles of trails. Find more at