Tuesday, January 1, 2013

more on disturbance-induced stress and birds and ethical birding

A considerable amount of research has been devoted in recent years to the harmful effect of stress to some bird species and other wildlife, caused by a heavy human presence, repeated flushing or other types of disturbance - especially in the context  of cold weather, in locations where roost sites are at a premium, and especially for some forest grouse, some species of geese, some owl species, and others. There is on the other hand some research that argues that  we may sometimes oversimplify our understanding of this issue. Is there then a "final answer"? Will there ever be?

My emphasis continues to be on the protection and conservation of birds. Some comments on the Wisconsin   Birding Facebook page and Wisbirdnet question the need for restraint in regard to posting locations of roosting owls, or other "sensitive species". Some apparently feel there is no need for "ethics and birding" to be a consideration. But many sources recommend this; and while it is obvious that not everyone agrees, the evidence of potential harmful effects to wildlife gleaned from the literature does even more to convince me that restraint should take precedence in many instances.

It is not my intention to attempt to limit people's field activities, spoil their birding experience, or create bad feelings between myself and  birders who disagree. I share this information in the hope that we may all learn more about the behavior of the birds we treasure. Learning more can indeed improve our experiences, and can help us to do a more effective job of conserving birds for our future - and theirs.

One of the most valuable papers I've found in recent days (Beale, C. M. 2007. The behavioral ecology of disturbance responses. International Journal of Comparative Psychology. 20: 111-120. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/43m7b2d5 ) includes this abstract:

"Measuring the impacts of anthropogenic activities on wildlife is crucial for ensuring effective management. Animal behavior is often considered a sensitive index of impact, but its use requires detailed understanding of the context dependent decisions animals make. In this manuscript I identify a number of areas where insights from the field of animal behavior are relevant to studies of human disturbance and activity. In particular, I differentiate between disturbance effects and disturbance impacts and show how context-dependent decision-making often makes animal behavior an unreliable index of impact. I show the areas where animal behavior can be useful in quantifying minimum disturbance impact when additional information is available, and identify a number of areas where further research may help improve the management of anthropogenic activities within wildlife areas."

Ethics and Birding - Sources


Literature on Stress and Disturbance to Wildlife, and Links to More on the Long-eared Owl

Beale, C. M. 2007. The behavioral ecology of disturbance responses. International Journal of Comparative Psychology. 20: 111-120. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/43m7b2d5

Smith, D. G. and A. Devine. 1993. Winter ecology of the Long-eared Owl in Connecticut. Conn. Warbler 13:44-53.
THIEL, D., S. JENNI-EIERMANN, R. RUPERT PALME, L. JENNI. 2011. Winter tourism increases stress hormone levels in the Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus. Ibis: Volume 153, Issue 1, pages 122–133, January 2011
Ulmschneider, H. 1990. Post-nesting ecology of the Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) in southwestern Idaho. Master's Thesis. Boise State Univ. Boise, ID.
Ulmschneider, H. 1993. Wintering and nesting site use by Long-eared Owls in the Snake River Birds of Prey Area. Pages 318-323 in Snake River Birds of Prey Area 1993 annual report. (Steenhof, K., Ed.) Bur. Land Manage., Boise Dist. Boise, ID.

Winter sports threaten indigenous mountain birds:
Wildlife Viewing Ethics: Alaska Department of Fish and Game: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewing.ethics

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