LOW IMPACT
BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

Consider the cumulative, as well as singular, impact of actions.

Remember, as a bird photographer, you do not have any greater right to approach or disturb birds than does an ordinary member of the public.

RESPECT THEIR SPATIAL NEEDS

View birds from a safe distance for both you and them. If the bird interrupts its behaviour (resting, feeding, etc.), then you are too close and must distance yourself.

DONT FORCE AN ACTION

Don't force an action, crowd, pursue, prevent escape, make deliberate noises to distract, startle or harass birds. This is stressful and wastes valuable energy in needless flight. The impact is cumulative.

DONT FEED OR USE BAIT

Habituation due to handouts can result in disease (poor health because inevitably the bird is not eating its native food) or even death of that bird and injury to you. Bird feeders can be a source of disease transmission amongst wild birds, eg beak & feather disease and psittacosis in parrots.

"Photographers must not feed fauna. It is an offence under [s155 of] the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 to feed fauna and fines apply for non-compliance. Using food to attract animals can disrupt their natural diet and behaviour and may increase their chances of predation by encouraging them to move from appropriate shelter or remain in a particular location for an extended period of time." Clause 6.1.3 Standards and Guidelines ETHICAL WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY 

AVOID USING CALL PLAYBACK 

Call playback,  also known as 'tape-lure' or 'tape playback', is used to attract birds. It is a technique of playing back a sound (recording of the bird's own call or a predator call) to which a bird responds by coming close. It alters the bird's behaviour (sometimes to its detriment eg coming into the open and getting predated upon or leaving a nest), can trigger breeding responses and is scientifically proven to increase stress levels (which can shorten life span).

Call playback is a useful tool for research, conservation and survey purposes. However, there is no question that sooner or later the use of call playback for recreational birding without a licence to do so will be banned by all leading, and responsible, birding authorities.

It is a form of interference or harassment of wildife and is therefore UNLAWFUL to be used,
without a licence, in most states of Australia.

"Under Section 153 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, it is an offence to disturb fauna without a lawful authority to do so. A person is disturbing fauna if they engage in an activity that has the effect, whether directly or indirectly, of altering the natural behaviour of fauna to its detriment – these effects can be either short-term or long-term. Higher penalties apply to the unlawful disturbance of threatened and specially protected species and different approvals are required".  Standards and Guidelines ETHICAL WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY 

REPORT RARE NESTING BIRDS TO AUTHORITIES, NOT SOCIAL MEDIA

Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities (Rare Bird Sightings: Share or Shut-up? )

Never post GPS locations of individual birds on recreational birding sites/social media. 

KEEP HABITAT DISTURBANCE TO A MINIMUM

Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist and NEVER enter areas designated off-limit by the local wildlife/nature conservation authorities.  This is particularly true in southern Australia where our native vegetation is under dire threat from the introduced plant disease Phytophthora cinnamomi, commonly known as dieback. In Western Australia, over 50% of our rare or endangered flora species are susceptible to dieback (which affects 40% of native WA plant species). It has already devastated the once floristically rich Stirling Range National Park (yes, it still looks beautiful, but it actually has lost almost half of its plant species to dieback).
 

It is primarily spread by human activity. The Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions will often close roads during wet weather when the risk of spreading this pathogen is at its highest. For rare birds, such as the Western Ground Parrot, the loss of these plant species is likely to have a devastating effect on the remaining population which is already struggling to overcome the impact of feral predators (cats and foxes) and bushfires.
 

For more information on dieback and its impact in Western Australia, click here.

AVOID NESTING BIRDS/ DONT POST NESTING BIRD IMAGES TO SOCIAL MEDIA

Photographers MUST keep an appropriate distance from nesting birds and should avoid posting nesting bird images on social media.

Nesting is the most critical and stressful time in a bird's life.

It is vitally important that photographers keep an appropriate distance from nesting birds so as to ensure that they do not:

  • accidentally, or deliberately, cause damage to the nest or nest site;

  • cause nest desertion or stress to the nesting adults or nestlings;

  • attract predators to the nest site; and/or

  • remain at a distance from the nest site, which elicits a behavioural response from the nesting bird(s) - such as ‘broken wing’ response or the nesting bird not returning immediately to the nest.​

AVOID USING FLASH ON BIRDS AT NIGHT

Use lower intensity spotlights, red filters and direct the light to the side of the subject rather than directly into its eyes.

"Photographers should avoid the use of a direct flash, especially when shooting small mammals and sea turtles. Photographers are discouraged from using an artificial light source as nocturnal animals may be sensitive to light; a non-direct diffused flash will reduce the impact of photography on these species." Standards and Guidelines ETHICAL WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY 

AVOID FLYING DRONES NEAR OR ABOVE WILDLIFE

Drones have been shown to significantly increase the heart rate of animals. Even flying a drone in a seemingly unpopulated outdoor landscape setting could draw the attention—and the predatory instincts—of a passing bird, resulting in the prospect of injury to the bird. In the words of Ami Vitali, National Geographic photographer, “Flying a drone very high and far away from animals is the only way to get your shot while not interfering with nature.” See: The Ethics of Wildlife Photography.

BE HONEST IN CAPTIONING

If you are photographing a captive or lured bird,  you should say this in your captioning, especially when entering competitions. Avoid  misrepresenting reality. Excessive photo editing, such as 'swapping out backgrounds' or duplicating birds should be declared unless obvious from the nature of the work. See How to Photograph Wildlife Ethically