May 10, 2022

Bird Walk Etiquette

Katie and Gene Hamilton

Bring Binocular News

Dos and don’ts of behaving when you’re birdwatching with a group

When you’re embarking on a path through a wildlife area it may be difficult to realize you’re the trespasser. Let’s face it, the birds, bugs and animals who live there are in their element.  You’re only passing through so be respectful. Don’t disturb or go too close to nesting area.

Use your common “outdoor” sense when you are walking on a nature trail looking for birds and enjoying a surrounding wildlife setting. Mother Nature provides the ambiance and the landscape whether it’s a leafy stand of trees or a prolific pond. These suggestions apply to birding when you’re part of a group. They make sense for a solo observer, too because you never know if there’s someone nearby you can’t see or hear.

Here’s our take on bird walk etiquette or what to expect, how to act and how to get the most out of attending a group bird walk led by a leader.

Follow the leader

Usually a group leader gathers everyone together with a few suggestions to follow.  Now’s the time to ask questions: Is there a bathroom nearby? How long will we be walking? How far will we be on trails? Do we need boots for muddy conditions?  

Then you’re off to a walking trail or car ride to a trail head. Often you’ll follow a group leader in a row of cars, so be mindful and go slow. Cautiously keep up to speed with the car in front of you.

  1. Think about how annoying it is to be interrupted by the blast of someone’s cell phone and turn off your mobile device. It distracts other people and puts birds on alert to a strange new sound. 
  2. Being in nature there’s a calming sound of birds so be quiet and listen.
  3. Be mindful of others and their equipment.  We’ve found birders are really generous people who share their equipment. If you’re offered a look-see through someone’s super spotting scope mounted on a tripod, take it and be grateful.  
  4. Often you’ll hear “wood duck on the far side of the pond” and everyone turns their cameras, scopes or binoculars in that direction.  Be careful when there’s a scurry in one direction and mindful of their equipment.
  5. Be aware of private homes and don’t be tempted to trespass on private property.
  6. Enjoy the camaraderie of others with your same interest in birds. And learn from the experience of group members who are often very generous with what they know about birds.  
  7. Follow the rules about stopping on a trail. If you stop, do it at a “Use Pull Off for Stopping” sign so others can pass you. 
  8. Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes, bring a hat and sunscreen and wear layers of clothes to adjust to the weather conditions.

TIP  Our firsthand experience using binoculars for birding: When you’re birdwatching, use binoculars on a monopod to steady the view. With binoculars mounted on a monopod – a one legged support that screws into the bottom of binoculars – it’s easy to carry, set down, grab a view and then pick up and walk away to the next viewing opportunity.  

Are you a Bird Lover? If you are looking for remarkable limited edition prints, original artwork and books about birds, take a look at the work of Julie Zickefoose at her website We recently had the good fortune to meet Julie and share our enthusiasm for her expertise and artwork. If you read BWD magazine, the new Bird Watcher’s Digest, you’ll see the lovely cover art on the July/August 2022 edition is by Julie.


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Gene and Katie Hamilton are bird watchers who attend birding festivals and events and write about the wonders of the birding world. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
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