Ethical wildlife watching and photography – Owls

Ethical wildlife watching and photography is essential for humans and wildlife alike. For us humans to be able to enjoy nature and wildlife without putting any extra stress on our surroundings, and for the animals to feel safe and undisturbed with us watching or photographing them.

We should always remember that we are entering their territory when we go out in nature. We are the guests; hence, we should also act so.

This document has been made as an educational post, to teach about the various aspects of Eastern Ontario owl visitors during our winter season. Due to unethical bird watching and photography here in the Ottawa region the last few years, we feel inclined to create this educational document, highlighting the problem these animals endure while visiting us.

  1. The first thing to consider when photographing or viewing owls, is to learn as much as you can about the animal you want to see. How will you know if the bird is stressed if you do not know the symptoms?

    → Here is some great information from Christian Artuso’s article about “Signs of stress in owls

  2. Secondly, why did OFNC stop reporting owls, and why are we not encouraged reporting owls through eBird? Read about the controversy here, same problem in both the US and Canada.

    → Laura Erickson’s For the Birds “Reporting Owls Controversy
    → The Pathless Woods “Reporting owls doing more harm than good
    → This info was posted to OntBirds in January of 2015 from the Kingston Field Naturalist’s after someone reported owls from Amherst Island Owl woods:

    In order to minimize disturbance to wildlife and property, Kingston Field Naturalists has adopted the KFN Sensitive Sightings Policy

    Also note that, as requested by the landowners, sightings of owls at the privately-owned Owl Woods must not be distributed on the Internet (this includes posting as ‘Amherst Island’ on eBird) by KFN or anyone who visits.
    To ensure continued access to this location, please respect their wishes and follow the guidelines posted on-site. To maintain records for conservation purposes, sightings from that location are welcomed through all the traditional channels.

    Mark D. Read

  3. Thirdly, what’s up with the baiting business? Isn’t feeding live mice and feeding seeds the same? And, are we not just helping the owls survive by feeding them?

    In this section, we touch on the Pro/Con’s with feeding wildlife. Remember that we always should put the animal or bird before our own agenda:

    → The Cornell Lab of Ornithology ” Snowy Owls Aren’t Starving
    → Laura Erickson’s For the Birds “Baiting Owls
    → The Pathless Woods “Great Gray Owls in Ottawa: Baiting and Abetting
    → Paul Roedding “My Take On Owl Baiting

  4. Many ask; I am only one person, what harm can I do? The truth is that it is not only you, but many more who seek the same subjects as you do, otherwise we would not have this problem today.

    → “Your Perfect Instagram Shot Might End Up Killing A Snowy Owl

  5. Lastly, we have to remember that nature and wildlife is not there for our taking. When venturing out and about, be respectful, and follow a few guidelines on how to act:

    → The OFNC’s Code of Conduct for birders, birdwatchers, and photographers
    → Nature Photographers Code of Conduct – Presented by the Nature Photographers Network


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