Photographing Shorebirds

16 Feb 2017

During Nesting Season (February through August), many shorebird nests are posted, or staked off with signs and string to create symbolic fencing. This gives the birds space to nest without disturbance from people or pets. It is imperative to ensure these posted areas do not draw excessive attention and prolonged disturbance to nesting birds.

When photographing a bird on a nest:

  • Remain behind the posted area. No part of you or your camera equipment should go beyond the string or signs. If the area around the nest is not staked off, you should remain far enough away to avoid disturbing nesting birds (typically 300 feet). If the birds show any sign of agitation as a result of your presence, please quietly and slowly retreat until the birds no longer appear agitated.
  • Never get close enough to cause the bird to leave its nest. Please back off immediately if you flush a bird. Sometimes birds nest near the edge of a posted boundary, so even if you are outside the string, if the bird responds to you, you’re too close!
  • Scan for predators. Make sure there are no predators nearby such as raccoons, cats, and crows that may be attracted to human presence or scent. Predators also are alert to movement, so by flushing a bird, you may inadvertently help predators notice birds that would otherwise have remained camouflaged.
  •  Don’t exceed 10 minutes. Too much time near the nest may unduly stress the birds. Be considerate and do not spend more than 10 minutes near the nest. After 10 minutes, all photographers should leave the nest area and wait at least three hours before returning.
  • Don’t specify the nest’s exact location when sharing or publishing photos. Advertising the birds’ nesting location may draw additional disturbance to the area.
  • When photographing birds that are away from their nests, or birds with chicks:
  • Stay at least 100 ft. away from the birds. Wait for the birds to approach you for closer shots.
  • Don’t “push” birds around the beach. Birds need to be able to feed and rest without disturbance. Shorebird chicks must constantly forage to gain enough weight to fledge in time, so any time taken away from foraging is detrimental to their survival.
  • Don’t litter on the beach. Any type of litter on the beach can have adverse impacts upon the birds. For example, scraps of human food may attract predators, and pieces of plastic may entrap and ultimately kill the birds.

Please feel free to email with any question regarding shorebirds.