Huge crowd of 50 birdwatchers shamed for terrorizing tiny, rare warbler

Person's hands holding binoculars
(Image credit: Getty)

Wildlife experts have condemned a group of around 50 birdwatchers for flushing a rare bird out of a bush in Scotland. A video posted on social media, and since deleted, showed a huge group of people with cameras waiting while two others chased the lanceolated warbler out of its hiding place.

Their behavior and lack of concern for the bird's wellbeing has been condemned by other birders, and by UK wildlife charity the RSPB. "Seeing nature in the wild is a privilege that we should never take for granted. Such experiences should be accepted on the terms of the species, not people." RSPB Scotland told The Times (paywall).

"The unprofessional way the twitch/flush was conducted," ornithological consultant and leader of international bird tours Lee Evans wrote on Twitter. "You don't need to clap and shout at a Lanceolated Warbler. You just sit in the grass ands it walks over your hand!"

According to the British Trust for Ornithology, the lanceolated warbler is rarely seen off the ground, and by 2019, there had only been 154 recorded sightings. However, as Evans says, they can be oblivious to humans, and "occasionally even walking over the feet of those trying observe them".

The opportunity to see and photograph a rare bird is an exciting one, but the bird's welfare should always come first. In its guide to ethical bird photography, bird conservation organization The National Audubon Society emphasizes the importance of avoiding causing stress or disturbance.

"Never advance on birds with the intention of making them fly, whether they are lone birds or flocks of birds," the society says. "This disrupts natural processes such as resting, foraging, or hunting, and causes them to expend energy unnecessarily."

The NAS also advises thinking carefully before sharing locations of specific birds with other photographers, and removing GPS location data from photos before publishing them online.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.