Summer Nests and Some Ethics

This past week, I was out birding and came across six bird nests all around our farm. Whenever I come across a nest, it’s likely because the parent sitting on the nest has flushed from my presence; this is a particular problem in Alberta at this time of year, with farmers starting to swath alfalfa in their hay fields and surprising many nesting birds, particularly ducks.

I will take about a minute to look at the contents in nest, but will spend as little time near it as possible, as my presence may attract predators, and make the parents feel so unsafe that they might decide to abandon the nesting site. I’ve found quite a few nests from small songbirds to waterfowl. I try to follow the ABA’s Code of Birding Ethics as well as the North American Photography Association (NANPA) Principles of Ethical Field Practices.

A friend of mine, Utah wildlife photographer and blogger Mia McPherson, wrote a post in May titled, “Please… give nests and chicks respect”, in which she gave a helpful list on

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.

I believe this is a Chipping Sparrow as it looks similar to a Chipping Sparrow nest I found last year. This nest is on the ground, but the nest I found last year was in a spruce tree,

A Mallard nest,


Brewer’s Blackbird nest in our lilac shelterbelt,


This Sora nest had seven eggs and one chick, but as I walked past the nest, the chick jumped out and swam away,


A female Robin nesting in one of our maple trees,


Here’s another duck nest, but I’m not sure on the species. The eggs are a little smaller than the Mallard’s, but larger than Teals’,


8 thoughts on “Summer Nests and Some Ethics

  1. Love this post Charlotte – it is true, well meaning people don’t always get their interest is really the end of the nest for the eggs or chicks… I have collected several eggs that have been successfully hatched and strewn away from the nest and love cheering on the babies that flutter their wings and beg mommy for food even though they are bigger than the parents. Love spring… but be careful what we do all – of us… wildlife is becoming more threatened daily and we can help it by being very careful.

  2. Awesome variety of nests! I’m quite jealous of the blackbird nest, and it’s really impressive that you managed to find a Sora’s nest!

    Another good guideline if you’re monitoring a nest periodically is to approach it by walking past it, instead of walking there and back, because doing the latter leaves a trail of scent that dead-ends at the nest and makes it far easier for the predator to find the nest. I regret to say that I learned this the hard way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s