Want to be a Bright Birder? It’s Easier Than You Think!

Mallard Duckling, Skaha Lake, Penticton. Photo by M. Wilson

So you want to try birding (that’s bird watching, not bird hunting). Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Binoculars (optional)
  • Bird identification book (optional)
  • An area where you can find birds (includes your backyard)
Pretty easy huh? Birding is a great hobby for all ages. It’s free to do, and you can find birds anywhere in the world. With over 400 species of birds in Canada alone, it’s a hobby that’s always evolving and will keep you entertained for years to come, especially if you like to travel (for example, Brazil has over 1800 bird species, 234 of which are endemic, meaning they live there and nowhere else in the world).
As far as ourStewards of the Strait pledges are concerned, Bright Birders are in short supply. Which I find strange, because I’m sure that almost every person in British Columbia has at one point gone birding, though perhaps unknowingly. Did you see that American Robin digging for worms in your lawn? How about that Red-tailed Hawk soaring high above your office? You just went birding. Congratulations!
Now as a Bright Birder, there are some very important guidelines that we here at the Georgia Strait Alliance recommend you follow while you’re viewing the birds. These guidelines will ensure that you not only keep the wildlife as safe and calm as possible, but it will also maximize your enjoyment of the hobby. There’s nothing worse than getting too close to a bird and scaring it away before you have time to identify it, am I right?
Great Blue Heron, Stories Beach, Port Hardy. Photo by M. Wilson

If you want to try your hand at some genuine birding, here are the rules to follow (these guidelines have been adapted from the American Birding Association’s Code of Birding Ethics):

  • Observe and photograph birds without knowingly disturbing them in any significant way. Avoid chasing or repeatedly flushing birds.
    • Not only will this keep the birds safe, but it will ensure you enjoy the birds’ natural behaviours for as long as possible.
  • Only sparingly use recordings and similar methods of attracting birds and don’t use these methods in heavily birded areas.
    • This one is very important. Birds use their calls to attract mates and guard their territories. If you use recorded bird calls to attract birds to you, not only are you likely stressing them out, but you could be doing them genuine harm (you may cause them to lose mates or territory, and no one wants to do that!).
  • Keep an appropriate distance from nests and nesting colonies so as not to disturb the birds or expose them to danger.
    • Obviously, any mother with a giant intruder near her babies will not be impressed. Don’t scare mum!
  • Refrain from handling birds or eggs unless engaged in recognized research activities.
    • Don’t touch anything! Besides, birds are famous for carrying lots of diseases, mites, and ticks. If you do touch a bird, clean your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Stay on existing roads, trails and pathways whenever possible to avoid trampling or otherwise disturbing the fragile habitat.
    • This will keep the entire ecosystem safe and pristine. The birds will thank you!
  • Leave all habitats as they were found.
    • This rule applies to all recreational outdoor activities. If you stop for a picnic, make sure you bring EVERYTHING back with you. This includes everything from sandwich bags to cigarette butts. And except for maybe the occasional feather, don’t bring anything back with you, no matter how beautiful that empty bird’s nest is.
Unidentified Sandpiper, Fishing boat off Ucluelet. Photo by M. Wilson

Lastly, now that you’re a pro at responsible birding, don’t forget to teach others what you’ve learned. If you see someone in a local park who isn’t following these guidelines, it could simply be because they just don’t know any better. Imagine how good you’ll feel helping others to become as responsible as you!

So there you are, you are now ready to go out and discover the amazing and diverse world of birds. Please stop by our Stewards of the Strait website and sign our Bright Birder pledge. This will ensure that we here at the Georgia Strait Alliance know that there are people out there who care for the well-being of these amazing animals. While you’re there, sign a few of our other pledges as well, I’m sure there’s at least one that applies to you!
Enjoy your new hobby!
– Mikaela

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