American Birding Podcast



Birding Ethics, Going Forward

A little while ago in this forum, we talked about “the next big idea”–make that big ideas, plural–for bird conservation. Let’s shift gears a bit now, to the somewhat more elusive matter of birding ethics.

Ethical behavior is a frequent concern for the birding community, and that’s a good thing. It means we’re aware. We birders care. We understand that our behaviors have consequences–for the birds themselves, for our human companions, and for the broader birding community.

Consider the 2013-2014 Snowy Owl invasion. There were so many ethical angles. We discussed everything, from “owl baiting” to aircraft safety, from our collective carbon footprint to local privacy concerns. It’s a tribute to the birding community that ethics were a central aspect of this once-in-a-generation birding event.


02-letters [LEFT]All the letters in the January/February 2014 Birding deal, in one way or another, with the question of birding ethics. Again: We’re aware, we birders care, we try to understand. It’s unusual, to say the least, to encounter a birder who birds in an ethical vacuum, entirely unaware of and unconcerned about the consequences of his or her behavior. So, what, in your view, are some of the big ethical issues of our day?

A few ground rules, please. First, to the extent possible, let’s try to focus this discussion on the present and, especially, the future. What are the big issues, going forward? Second, where are you coming from? What I mean is: What experiences and perspectives have led you to your ethical outlook? Third, who or what (birds? other birders? non-birders? local laws and traditions?) is being affected by your behavior?

I said at the end of my blog post from yesterday, “I look forward to the learning experience.” Today I can say, “I look forward to becoming a better–that is to say, a more ethical–birder.”