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Responses to Human Intruders by Birds Nesting in Colonies: Experimental Results and Management Guidelines
R. Michael Erwin
Vol. 12, No. 1 (1989), pp. 104-108
Published by: Waterbird Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1521318
Page Count: 5
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Colonies of nesting wading birds and seabirds were studied at coastal sites in Virginia and North Carolina to determine distances at which birds flushed in response to human intrusion. Observers measured up to 3 distances: these were (i) a "dread," or initial panic, (ii) the distance at which the first individual flushed, and (iii) the distance at which the majority of the colony flushed. The total time that birds spent in the air after flushing was also recorded. Mixed colonies of Common Terns-Black Skimmers responded at the greatest distances ("dread"), with respective means of 142 and 130 m; mixed wading bird species were more reluctant to flush (30-50 m average). There were few statistically significant relationships between flushing distances and colony size. Similarly, there were few differences between responses during incubation compared to post-hatching periods. The disturbance distances measured in this study are much greater than the 50 m guideline suggested in a 1976 National Park Service report. I recommend distances of 100 m for Least and Royal Terns and wading birds and 200 m for Common Terns and skimmers for sign-posting of established colonies. Greater distances will be necessary as a buffer before birds become established at a site.
Colonial Waterbirds © 1989 Waterbird Society