Examination of the Effects of Disturbance of Birds with Reference to its Importance in Ecological Assessments

Journal Article

Title: Examination of the Effects of Disturbance of Birds with Reference to its Importance in Ecological Assessments
Publication Date:
December 01, 1992
Journal: Journal of Environmental Management
Volume: 36
Issue: 4
Pages: 253-286
Publisher: Elsevier

Document Access

Website: External Link


Hockin, D.; Ounsted, M.; Gorman, M.; Hill, D.; Keller, V.; Barker, M. (1992). Examination of the Effects of Disturbance of Birds with Reference to its Importance in Ecological Assessments. Journal of Environmental Management, 36(4), 253-286.

National, European and International legislation regarding the conservation of species and habitats requires professional statements to be made in respect of land use change, as, for example, illustrated by developments. Some developments may cause disturbance to wildlife. Knowledge of the way in which species respond to disturbance has been fragmented, yet is an important consideration in environmental impact assessments. This paper reviews what is known about disturbance factors on the best studied group, birds. A set of extensive appendices summarize the literature on disturbance effects on breeding, breeding success, nest-site choice, population density, community structure, distribution and habitat use. The paper considers human-induced disturbance, public access, water-based recreation, shooting and industrial developments. Mitigation measures are discussed. Human-induced disturbance can have a significant negative effect on breeding success by causing nest abandonment and increased predation. Outside the breeding season, recreation (particularly power boating, sailing and coarse fishing on wetlands) reduces the use of sites by birds. Compensatory feeding at night by some species can probably recoup some of the energy losses caused by disturbance. Public and vehicular access to open landscapes has been shown negatively to affect grazing geese in winter and lowland and upland waders during breeding. Shooting disturbance has been shown to be most important for herbivore feeders which need to spend long periods of the day feeding in order to maintain their energy balance, e.g. wigeon. The provision of refuges devoid of shooting has been fundamental in attracting wildfowl away from non-refuge sites. The response of birds to scaring devices and other control measures is discussed. Effects from industrial developments include direct loss of habitat, disturbance through the presence of humans during the construction process and the presence of artificial light used to illuminate construction sites. On estuaries, engineering operations should avoid the proximity to established roost sites of wading birds. A number of studies showed increased vigilance (and hence reduced feeding time) in flock members feeding near structures which impede their vision of the approach of potential predators. A number of principal management techniques used to reduce disturbance on a site, or to attempt to compensate for habitat loss, are given. For wetland sites, these include excavating new shallow lagoons and grading bank sides, flooding of low-lying pasture, reducing salinity levels in coastal lagoons thereby making them more attractive to the birds' food invertebrates, manipulating water levels to expose mud regularly and creating feeding areas for geese and wigeon, using manipulative livestock grazing. Also used are increasing nesting cover, planting macrophytes, providing islands, spits and promontories, purchasing more land to make a refuge bigger, concealing observers with banks and screens, zoning activities and prohibiting access and avoiding the obstruction of flyways between feeding and roosting areas.

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