Bird-watching, or birding, is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in North America. In Canada, 1 in 5 people are watching birds on a regular basis, whether on hikes, from bikes, cars, or in the backyard. It has become an outdoor activity that individuals and families can do almost anywhere in the world, contributing to the ever-increasing knowledge base through citizen science.
Today, with the Internet and smartphones, birding has come of age. The ability to see a bird, identify it, and share the discovery not only satisfies your curiosity and awe but gives you a sense of accomplishment knowing that your sighting is part of an ever-growing database of natural history in Nova Scotia. With so many people involved in birding, you can attend any number of field trips that cater to new birders. This can bring a strong connection to nature, while providing a wonderful social experience that often results in friendships that last a lifetime.
Many birders learn to not only identify each bird by its shape, size and colour but also by sound, habitat and behaviour. Each bird has noises that are different from one another, visits different habitats, and is unique from each other in various ways. Birders may also keep lists of what they see, as well as report their daily sightings to local birding groups, Listserv, Rare Bird Alerts (local and national), as well as enter their records into international databases.
ETHICS FOR BIRDERS
This section is excerpted from Claudia Wilds's outstanding book Finding Birds in the National Capital Area (Smithsonian, 1992; available from the ABA).
- 1. Put the welfare of the bird first.
- a. Do nothing that would flush a bird from its nest or keep it from its eggs or young.
- b. Avoid chasing or repeatedly flushing any bird; in particular, do not force a tired migrant or a bird in cold weather to use up energy in flight.
- c. Do not handle birds or their eggs unless you have a permit to do so.
- d. Make a special effort to avoid or stop the harassment of any bird whose presence in the area has been publicized among birders. This stricture especially applies to the use of tapes and to the disturbance of nesting birds, and of vagrants and rare, threatened, and endangered species.
- e. If you think a bird's welfare will be threatened if its presence is publicized, document it carefully and report its presence only to someone who needs to have the information (e.g., a refuge manager, an officer of the appropriate records committee, the editor of the appropriate journal). If you are not sure, discuss it with the manager of a rare bird alert or another experienced and responsible birder.
- 2. Protect habitat.
- a. Stay on existing roads and trails whenever possible.
- b. Leave vegetation as you find it; do not break it or remove it to get a better view, or trample marshland into mud.
- 3. Respect the rights of others.
- a. Do not trespass on property that may be private, whether or not "No Trespassing" signs have been posted. Ask the landowner directly for access unless specific permission for birders to enter the area has been announced or published.
- b. Do not enter closed areas of public lands without permission.
- If you find a rare bird on land that is closed to the public, do not publicize it without describing the possible consequences of doing so to the owner and obtaining appropriate permission.
- d. Stay out of plowed or planted fields and managed turf or sod.
- e. By behaving responsibly and courteously to nonbirders at all times, help to ensure that birders will be welcome everywhere. Do nothing that may have the consequence of excluding future birders from an area.
- f. When seeking birding information from others call only between 9 a.m and 9 p.m. (their time!) unless you know that your call will be welcome at that number at other hours.