Is getting “too close for comfort” a thing for birds? Yes totally! And if you look and listen, they even tell you when.

It was a radiant and sun-filled day, perfect for a leisurely visit to a nearby beach, where we planned to observe some of our protected birds and capture a few snapshots for an upcoming project. However, our peaceful outing took an unexpected turn when a pair of terns began scolding us…

This incident serves as a vivid illustration of the ‘Keep your Distance / Back off’ rule. Much like humans, when we feel irritated or crowded by someone invading our personal space, we naturally expect them to move away when asked or when we display signs of discomfort. Well, birds operate on a similar principle—they, too, appreciate the courtesy of having their space respected. It’s as simple as that!

Even though we believed we were well outside the boundaries of the designated protected bird habitat, it became apparent that we were still (unintentionally) too close for comfort. How did we know? Well, it was all in the little guy’s demeanor—the alert posture, the tense readiness, and the unmistakable ‘mocked’ dive bombing that followed shortly after we spotted him (a least tern).

If we were to indulge in a bit of anthropomorphism, we might be tempted to say that, in this very moment captured in the photo, he exuded an air of assertiveness, as if he were ready to speak his mind if we persisted in our reckless behavior. Needless to say, we promptly heeded his silent warning and moved out of harm’s way…

A thing to keep in mind when birding: a designated area keeps us humans at a minimum distance but not at an optimal distance from wildlife. Give an extra buffer distance between you and the bird (even more so when it is a nesting area); watch the posture of the bird; and if there is any change in its activity, please retreat the bird is experiencing stress.

And to be safe, make sure to follow proper Birding etiquette when watching our winged friends. Thanks!

Check Also:

Birdist Rule #28: Know When Birds Think You’re Too Close to Their Nests

Observing bird behavior is one of the many pleasures of birding. Each species has its own quirks of feeding, flight, and social interaction, and seeing a bird engage in these natural behaviors gives the burgeoning birder a better understanding of the species beyond just field marks and identification points.

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