There are no rules in birdwatching, no laws, and no commandments. It is simply a hobby that you can practice anywhere, and at any time. That being the case, there are some guidelines which everyone should follow in the interest of courtesy and civility, not to mention respecting the rights of others who may be disturbed by the sudden appearance of a group of people all peering through binoculars into their backyard.
Here is a set of basic guidelines that should be followed by all birdwatchers, regardless of who they are or how long they have been participating in this hobby. By adhering to these principles*, you will ensure that no one is disturbed or harassed, and that the activities of your birding group put the welfare of the birds first.
Do not shout or run about. Commotion often chases birds away.
Do not try to be the first birder to identify a species under observation. Hurried identifications are wrong more often than right.
Do not crowd up or block others from seeing.
Do not step in front of anyone using binoculars, a telescope or a camera. When people stop to watch a bird, stop with them to prevent scaring away their find.
Do not monopolize a spot after seeing a bird; give others a chance to see it. After the other birders have moved on, watch again for as long as you wish.
Even though you may already be familiar with a bird being observed, others may not. Be patient with those who want to learn more.
When travelling with a group, keep to the group schedule unless you spot a real rarity or unless others agree to spend additional time at a particular place.
Do not monopolize equipment belonging to someone else.
Do be quiet while other birders are attempting to listen to a bird song.
Be helpful to beginners.
Do not try to set a rapid pace. If a group must move ahead more slowly than you like, drop back and search for birds the group may have missed.
If you see other members of a group staring fixedly at a spot, do not harass them to tell you what they are looking at. If they see something worthwhile, they will tell you.
Obey all posted signs. Being a birdwatcher conveys no special privileges. Obtain permission before entering private property. Property owners may tell you where to look for birds on their land.
Do not litter, remove plants, disturb animals, or walk off pathways without permission from the owner.
* Source: The Birdwatcher’s Diary by E.M. Reilly and G. Carruth. Harper & Row Pubs., NY. 1987.