Birding Ethics

Northern Arizona Audubon Society has taken a position regarding the Ethics of Birding in general and of the use of recorded bird calls. Our chapter, by virtue of a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors on May  6, 2019, has aligned itself with the policies promoted by Bird Life, International. In its simplest sense, we encourage birders to act with a conservation mindset and to do no harm. This policy is based upon two overarching principles:

  1. Support the protection of birds and their habitat
  2. Avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger

The Bird Life ethics document goes on the list 15 action-oriented items. The first is the most often discussed: Call playback . The document says this:

The use of call playback can distress some species and may disrupt feeding and/or breeding activity. As a general rule, BirdLife Australia does not support the use of call playback for the purposes of bird observation. However, if artificial bird calls are to be used they should be used for limited periods and be played at a volume lower than that of the target bird. It should not be used during the target bird’s breeding season.
The use of such devices should always be kept to a minimum, particularly in areas of high visitation by birders where call playback by other birders may well have occurred in the recent past. Responsible use of call playback can be valuable in locating cryptic birds without causing serious harm; however, it is a skilled activity and should not be taken lightly. If in doubt, avoid using call playback, particularly during nesting season when birds may be called off incubation duties, or even abandon the nest altogether.

Read the entire ethics document here:

A great deal of discussion about birding ethics deals with the use of recorded calls. The ethics statement above address that with regard to proper conduct, but Audubon itself offers a good set of helpful tips on the best way to use recorded calls assuming that you are doing so in an ethical manner. To learn how to get the best value out of your chosen bird app. click here:


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