If you have birded for any length of time you know the nightmare scenario.  You are far from any kind of facility where you might take advantage of modern, or even primitive, plumbing.  Your stomach is doing backflips and twists and making all kinds of disturbing gurgling noises.  You try to hold out, walking with the peculiar gait of a person with their butt cheeks clamped firmly together but there is no stopping what is trying to get out into the air.  You are a birder, you are in the woods, and you have to poop.  What next?

Let us draw the curtain on this unfortunate scene and discuss what can be done to make such scenarios less horrific.  First of all, every birder backpack, rucksack, or other holder of materials should have toilet paper, or, failing that, tissues.  Don’t resort to what I had to do once in the vicinity of the East Pond of Jamaica Bay and emerge sockless from the bushes.  Second of all, know what plants and bugs might cause problems when you are trying to find a private place to do your business and don’t plant your naked keister in or make your deposit on, say, a patch of poison ivy or a nest of biting ants.  Third, if you are birding with others, try to post a lookout so no one comes upon you while you are in such a compromised position.  After all, it is difficult to look dignified with your pants around your ankles and yesterday’s lunch on the ground.

But perhaps more important than being prepared for digestive disaster in the field is preparing in advance through diet so as to avoid the issue altogether.  After all, if you eat five bowls of bran cereal and chase them down with a couple glasses of prune juice you had better not move more than five steps from a toilet.  While no one (hopefully) takes things to such extremes it doesn’t hurt to think about your diet and the effect it might have on your pooping frequency prior to spending an extended amount of time away from plumbing.  You should either plan ahead in terms of eating food that will not cause disaster or you should wear a diaper.

To answer the question asked in the title of this blog post, yes, of course birders poop in the woods.  We really, really, really, really, try not to but sometimes it just can’t be helped.

What is your worst birding and pooping related story?  Do tell in the comments!


Poop Week is a week of themed posts on 10,000 Birds that cover the intersection of poop and birding, a fertile precinct if there ever was one.  Rather than just discuss the horror of a pigeon dropping droppings on someone’s head we decided to really get down the nitty-gritty details of poop, to the point where it is squishing up between our toes.  Not only is Poop Week a fascinating way to spend seven days in June it is also a serious attempt to elevate the level of discourse in the bird blogosphere, which, as we all have no choice but to admit, is far too low.  Enjoy, and make sure to wipe up afterwards, would you?


Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.