for birders, birdwatchers, hikers, and photographers


Birdwatching and nature photography are becoming ever more popular. The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club’s Birds Committee and the RA Photo Club Nature Group suggest the following guidelines so that disturbance to birds and other wildlife is minimized and so that all can enjoy the birds.


  • Always remember: You are not the only one who may be observing.
  • Always consider your impact on birds. They are most likely already under stress when MIGRATING, on NESTS or breeding sites, and FEEDING.
  • Predatory birds (such as herons, hawks and especially owls) are also susceptible to stress.
  • Keep a good distance away and do not linger.
  • Imagine that a bird has “personal space” that should be respected. If you note any signs of agitation from the bird, move away immediately.
  • Avoid flushing birds. If you are trying to attract a bird, be mindful of the hazards they may face. For example, avoid placing bird feeders close to windows or luring birds out to roads with heavy traffic.
  • Use flash photography only with DISCRETION AND CAUTION. Nocturnal birds are particularly sensitive. Avoid repeatedly disturbing birds, especially those that have already been frequently photographed.
  • Using recordings or imitating calls around birds on breeding territory may also cause undue stress at a very vulnerable time in their lives and should be avoided, and in general kept to a minimum.
  • Do not announce the location of RARE breeding birds. Record details of your observations and consider submitting a report to the appropriate Records Committee (in Ontario – the Ontario Nest Records Scheme at the Royal Ontario Museum Tel: 416-586-5523 Fax: 416-586-5553).
  • Stay away from active nests. Do not attempt to view or photograph nests with incubated eggs or hatchlings. Nests are very vulnerable and can easily fail if disturbed. Avoid gathering in large groups at nest sites, and do not linger at these sites.
  • If LEADING a group (professional or amateur), ensure that members of your group know and understand the Code of Conduct. Lead by example. Professional tour companies must bear a special responsibility to place the welfare of the birds first, even if it means that rarities are not seen.
  • Never disturb the environment, damage property, or leave garbage. Be quiet and respectful.
  • Respect private property and always obtain landowner permission to enter. If asked to leave an area, do so immediately, and courteously.
  • Stay on established trails. Don’t block other peoples’ views – this interferes with their right to see/enjoy the birds too. Never block laneways, roads, or any other form of access to other people.
  • Always abide by rules and regulations in areas such as National or Provincial Parks, Regional or Local Conservation Areas, etc.

It’s up to you to help promote respect toward wildlife, the environment, and other people.