|Western Grebe, Antelope Island, Utah, US. Copyright Michael R. Martin|
A new study of Australian wetland birds suggests people gliding up in canoes aren’t as threatening as folks on foot. The researchers approached birds on river in Northwest Queensland in canoes and while walking. Birds flushed by walkers flew around 50 feet farther than those spooked by canoes.
For this study, published in the journal Wetlands Ecology and Management, the researchers approached a variety of duck, grebe, egret, ibis and other bird species in wetlands along the the Darr and Thompson rivers until the birds fled. Using a laser rangefinder, they recorded how far away they were from the birds when they took off, known as the starting distance, and how far the birds flew.
Journal Abstract: Disturbance of birds by human activities is increasing and is of conservation concern. Little is known of the flight initiation distances (FID) of birds to recreational canoeing, although this activity is common and can occur in wetland areas inaccessible to vehicle or pedestrian traffic. We compared the FID evoked by a walker with that evoked by a canoe for 13 birds in wetlands in north–western Queensland. Canoes evoked shorter FIDs compared with walkers (means ± 95 % confidence intervals; 32.9 ± 7.6 m and 47.5 ± 7.4 m, respectively). These data could be used to establish buffers or codes of conduct for canoeists in wetlands in arid northern Australia, especially when water levels are low.