Date of Original Version
Human activity is one of the most important factors affecting disturbance to birds that use coastal barrier beaches in southern New England. The barrier beach at Napatree Point, RI, provides important breeding habitat for several bird species, key stopover habitat for thousands of migrating shorebirds, and is also a popular destination for people. Anecdotal evidence suggested that walkers, joggers, dogs, and watercraft were disrupting birds that foraged and roosted at this site. Our objectives were to characterize the frequency and sources of disturbance to birds and use this information to develop management recommendations to minimize the frequency of human disturbances to birds at Napatree Point. We conducted 106 hours of observation from May through August in 2013. Of 211 flight responses, the most common sources of disturbance to birds were beach walkers (57.8%), motorboats (8.5%), kayaks (8.5%), bird watchers (7.6%), and anglers (6.2%). Birds typically flushed when pedestrians (e.g., walkers, bird watchers, and anglers) were within 39 ± 24 m (median ± inter-quartile range) and watercraft (e.g., motorboats and kayaks) were within 38 ± 33 m. Flight responses were positively correlated with the number of people on the beach and the number of boats in the area. Disturbances to birds peaked in July when human visitation was highest. Using a spatially explicit density map of flight-initiation distance vectors, we identified the most important area to set as a buffer zone for human access if managers seek to reduce the frequency of human disturbances to birds at Napatree Point.
Mayo, T. W., Paton, P. W.C., & August, P. V. (2015). Responses of Birds to Humans at a Coastal Barrier Beach: Napatree Point, Rhode Island. Northeastern Naturalist, 22(3), 501-512.