American Oystercatcher chickAmerican Oystercatcher chick

Fluffy little chicks are adorable, they make people “ohh” and “aww” and those that hit the ground running not long after hatching are especially appealing to some folks. But they need respect and they need space so we don’t endanger them.

During this time of the year I see tons of nest and chick images posted on the internet on photo sharing sites and I feel my self cringe when I can see that someone has walked up to a nest and taken images of nestlings or even the unhatched eggs with short lens because I know they got too close. Those actions can put the young birds at risk.

The American Oystercatcher image above was taken from a long distance and this is a large crop (43% of original frame) which I normally do not like to make but in my mind the image is never as important as the well being and safety of my subject.

Chukar chickChukar chick

When we approach a nest we leave a scent trail that could possibly attract predators to the nest which might cause the eggs or the chicks to be eaten by a predator. This Chukar chick image is another case where I took a large crop (%39 of the original frame) rather than approach the bird closely which would have stressed it or the adult nearby.

Ethics on photographing nesting birds:

  • Do not approach too closely
  • If the birds show any sign of distress, back away
  • Don’t trim leaves, twigs or branches to get a clearer shot, you may inadvertently attract predators or cause the eggs/chicks to over heat
  • Follow local, state and federal guidelines concerning nesting birds
  • Don’t harass the birds to get an action shot
  • Don’t stay a long time with nesting birds or chicks, that disrupts their normal behavior
  • Always remember that your scent may draw predators to the area of nesting birds or birds with chicks.

For more information on the ethics of photographing nesting birds or chicks: the Principles of Birding Ethics published by the American Birding Association. Also NANPA’s Ethical Practices (pdf)

Western Meadowlark chickWestern Meadowlark chick (sorry for the poor quality)

Sometimes we might need to help chicks get to a safe place, like the example below.

Two days ago we spotted a ball of fluff in the middle of a road on Antelope Island State Park and after scoping it with my lens I could see that it was a Western Meadowlark fledgling, because the road wasn’t a safe place I took a few images, got out of the pick up and walked up behind the chick. I put my hands near the back of the fledgling and just that movement alone was enough to cause the chick to move towards the shoulder of the road and the adult. Once I knew the chick was safely off of the road I got back into the pickup and left.

At this time of the year we should be careful where we step, where we drive and how closely we approach nests and chicks, it is very important not to stress the chicks or adults.

Mia