Birders Behaving Badly

By large, birders are a nice bunch and bad behaviour and poor etiquette among devotees is, thankfully, rather scarce – though this does not mean it does not occur. Many of those boasting a penchant for the hobby will have witnessed such behaviour, the practice of tape luring birds during the breeding season for example, and I doubt I am the only one to cringe whenever the term organised flush is uttered. Which it is, whenever a particularly cryptic species turns up and onlookers desiring more than just a fleeting glimpse take it upon themselves to deliberately scare it from cover.

Generally, bad behaviour among birdwatchers falls into two distinct categories: actions which cause damage to property or habitat (bad) and actions detrimental to the bird itself (very bad). Both of which appear to have been rife at the recent Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler twitch in Norfolk.

The video below, kindly posted to Youtube by SuperPeckinpah, demonstrates perfectly the behaviour which, at present, is giving birders a bad name. Trespassing, damage to habitat and organised flushing, coupled with arrogant individuals behaving like petulant, kaki-clad children. Hat’s off to the wardens of Holkham Hall Estate for confronting these individuals and acting in the best interests of both the bird and the law – it must have been hard keeping a cool head given the selfish and, at times, patronising drivel being spoken by some within the crowd.


Ultimately, if behaviour like that displayed in the above video continues, it will be we birders who lose out. If the ignorant minority continues to do as they please, ignoring best practice and the wishes of landowners, bird news will simply stop being published – leaving all of us in the dark. It is promising to see so many within the birding community highlighting and pouring scorn on this behaviour – just look at this thread – but it is up to all of us to remain vigilant and ensure that idiots like those featured above are kept in check.


  1. Adam Canning says:

    Reading this makes me recall of my time birding in Yorkshire (years ago) and of my ‘guide’. He secretly encouraged luring birds with audio clips. I soon learnt most of his views were wrong and outdated – Bill Oddie’s books helped make me realise that. Plus, birders closer to home, in Worcestershire informed of how how some birdwatchers’ / birders’ behaviour can be abhorrent (like how you’ve described and what the video depicts).

  2. Reg Oakley says:

    Tape lures can have a useful purpose as when bird ringers are attempting to record migrants. In the main this is done responsibly. However being used by the must record another tick at all costs which is unfortunately starting to make up the bulk of the twitcher brigade justs brings a fabulous hobby into disrepute.
    I do hope the Holkham Hall incident makes it to the birding press with suitable condemnatory remarks.

  3. Watching this video is incredibly cringey, these twitchers sound so desperate and don’t grasp the reality of the situation. I’m embarrassed for them.

  4. Geof Douglas says:

    Well put and hopefully read by all parties. I was there initially on Tuesday and after the first incursion and confrontation left in disgust. Not birding and not what I want to be part of.

  5. Tony says:

    Sadly, this is the type of behaviour which proves the growing disconnect between birders and the managed countryside in general. Many in society are increasingly becoming misguided by those with hidden agendas to destroy the fabric of a working managed landscape, i.e. the townie/rural divide. Certain individuals promote their own views above and beyond the reality of what actually makes such places of beauty work to the benefit of farming, food production and the wildlife. Trespass is wrong, criminal damage in the name of a twitch is wrong, ignoring the plight of the birds themselves and the landowners right to protect his or her property are all things we should be agreeing on when considering our love for this country’s wildlife, rare or otherwise. I’m with the landowners in this instance, too many people possess a lack of understanding and respect for anyone other than themselves these days it seems. If such divides continue, the countryside will likely be closed down for the likes of us birders and nature lovers post-Brexit.

  6. Tony says:

    *agreeing on “abolishing” or something similarly phrased is what I meant to state above. This video and subsequent discussion from both sides of the argument (well, not really a valid case for arguing against) should be aired on the upcoming Autumnwatch series. Unlikely, however, given what I’ve already stated above.

  7. I was just out in the wild and ran into a nature photography hobbyist who like me loves all nature not just birds. Both of us have experienced birders behaving badly. Made to feel less than… over mis-identifying a bird… could be murderous in this clan of well-zoomed people. I would not use hook or crook to get a good shot. I take my nature…naturally.

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