Posted by: Dan | April 3, 2009

Birdwatching Ethics

The March newsletter for BirdLife Cyprus has a “Code of Practice” (based on one developed by British bird conservation groups and birdwatching magazines) that bears repeating:

A growing number of people enjoy birdwatching in Cyprus – this code puts the interests of birds first and respects the countryside and other people, whether or not they are interested in birds.

Six basic rules:

  1. Avoid disturbing birds and their habitats – the birds’ interests should always come first. Make sure you know the relevant provisions of Cyprus law 153(I)/2003 relating to hunting, bird protection and management
  2. Be an ambassador for birdwatching
  3. Respect the countryside
  4. Send your sightings to the BirdLife Cyprus Bird Recorder, enter them on the Cypriaca internet site (through http://www.birdlifecyprus.org) and phone interesting sighting in to the BirdLine information service
  5. Think about the interests of wildlife and local people before passing on news of a rare bird, especially during the breeding season.
  6. Report any incidents of poaching with guns, limesticks or nets to the relevant authorities


1. Putting birds first

Whether your particular interest is photography, ringing or just birdwatching, remember that the interests of the bird must always come first.

Avoid going too close to birds or disturbing their habitats – if a bird flies away or makes repeated alarm calls, you’re too close. And if it leaves, you won’t get a good view. Disturbance can keep birds from their nests, leaving chicks hungry or enabling predators to take eggs or young. During cold weather or when migrants have just made a long flight, repeatedly flushing birds can mean they use up vital energy that they need for feeding. Stay on roads and paths where they exist and avoid disturbing habitat used by birds.

Intentional disturbance of birds or their nests during the breeding season is illegal under Cyprus law 153 (I) of 2003 on the protection and management of wild birds and game (this law implements the EU Birds Directive in Cyprus). Also, playing a recording of birdsong or calls to encourage a bird to respond is illegal under the same law. Both these offences are subject to a fine of up to €17,000 and/or up to three years imprisonment. Special permission to use calling devises for research purposes can be sought by applying to the Minister of Interior.

2. Be an ambassador

Think about your fieldcraft and behavior, not just so that you can enjoy your birdwatching, but so others can too.

Respond positively to questions from interested passers-by. They may not be birdwatchers yet, but a good view of a bird or a helpful answer may light a spark of interest. Your enthusiasm could start a lifetime’s interest in birds and a greater appreciation of wildlife and its conservation. Consider using local services, such as kiosks, coffee shops, restaurants and petrol stations. Raising awareness of the benefits to local communities of trade from visiting birdwatchers may, ultimately, help the birds themselves.

3. Respect the countryside

The Cyprus countryside is generally “open access” but make sure to respect the wishes of local residents and landowners, and don’t enter private land without permission unless it is open for public access. Irresponsible behavior may cause a landowner to deny access to others (e.g. for necessary survey work). It may also disturb the bird or give birdwatching bad coverage in the media.

4. Send your records in

Add to tomorrow’s knowledge of birds by sending your sightings to the BirdLife Cyprus Recorder, Colin Richardson and by entering these on the Cyprus chapter of the World Birds database, Cypriaca (through http://www.birdlifecyprus.org). If you have an unusual observation to report then please also call the BirdLife Cyprus BirdLife, but bear in mind the notes about rare birds (below).

5. If you discover a rare bird, please bear the following in mind:

Consider the potential impact of spreading the news. Think about whether the site can cope with a large number of visitors and whether sensitive species might be at risk, such as breeding terns, flocks of wading birds or rare plants. The BirdLife Cyprus office or Bird Recorder can advise on this, in confidence and without disseminating information on the sighting.

Rare breeding birds may abandon their eggs if disturbed and some birds of prey are at risk from persecution. If you discover a rare breeding species that you think is vulnerable, please contact BirdLife Cyprus.

If you have the opportunity to see a rare bird, enjoy it, but don’t let your enthusiasm override common sense. In addition to the guidelines above:

i) If you go to see a rare bird, park sensibly, and don’t get too close for a photograph – you’ll earn the wrath of everyone else if you flush the bird out of sight.

ii) Be patient if the viewing is limited, talk quietly and give others a chance to see the bird too. Do not enter private areas without permission.

iii) Birds should never be flushed in important wildlife habitats or where there are other nesting or roosting birds nearby. Birds should not be flushed more frequently than every two hours nor within two hours of sunrise or sunset, so the bird has a chance to feed and rest.

6. Report poaching incidents

Poaching with guns, limesticks and mist nets remains a problem in Cyprus. If you witness any illegal shooting or use of nets, glue sticks or other trapping devices, make sure you report these to the Game Fund or SBA Police, depending where you are, and to BirdLife Cyprus.

Do not confront poachers and do not remove limesticks or nets, as this may put you at risk and compromise any legal proceedings against poachers. Make careful notes of where the incident took place and call the authorities and/or BirdLife Cyprus.


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