How to be a Shorebird-friendly Photographer

By Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ Posted on June 2, 2021

Reprint from The Wrack Line by Florida Fish and Wildlife

Photography of shorebirds and seabirds along Florida’s shores is a popular activity for persons of all ages.

Observing shorebirds and seabirds can be exciting, and admirers are often eager to photograph the charismatic birds that take residence on the beaches each year.  However, photographing birds for our enjoyment does not need to come at the cost of their chronic disturbance.

If you are one of the lucky people to encounter and photograph shorebirds and seabirds, please remember how to be a shorebird-friendly photographer.

When photographing a bird on a nest:

Remain outside 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 the birds (typically 300 feet).

If the birds show any sign of agitation as a result of your presence, quietly and slowly retreat until the birds no longer appear disturbed. Stay far enough away for the bird to remain on its nest.

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 shorebird and seabird predators. Make sure there are no predators nearby such as raccoons, cats, and crows that may be attracted to human presence or scent. They are alert to movement, so by flushing a bird, you may inadvertently help predators notice birds that would otherwise have remained camouflaged.

How to be a Shorebird-friendly Photographer in Florida’s Nature Coast

Stay 10 minutes or less. Too much time near the nest may unduly stress the birds. Be considerate and do not spend more than 10 minutes near the nest. If other photographers are present, try to coordinate your time near the nest, and leave the area together, so that the birds have at least three hours of undisturbed time.

Don’t specify the nest’s exact location when sharing or publishing photos. Advertising the birds’ nesting location may draw additional disturbance to the nest.

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. 
  • Stay far enough away so the birds do not change their behavior in response to your presence.
  • Don’t “push” the 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 can be harmful to their health and survival.

For more details, read “How to Be a Shorebird-friendly Photographer”.

Image by Pat Manfredo



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