Publication Details

Inter-specific variation in avian responses to human disturbance

Publication Toolbox

  • Download PDF (268207)
  • This publication is available only online.
Blumstein, Daniel T.; Fernandez-Juricic, Esteban ; Zollner, Patrick A.; Garity, Susan C.

Year Published



Journal of Applied Ecology (2005) 42, 943?953.


1. Increasing urbanization and recreational activities around and within biodiversity hotspots require an understanding of how to reduce the impacts of human disturbance on more than a single species; however, we lack a general framework to study multiple species. One approach is to expand on knowledge about the theory of anti-predator behaviour to understand and predict how different species might respond to humans.
2. We reviewed the literature and found that only 21% of studies that used a behavioural approach to study human disturbance focused on multiple species. These studies identified a number of potential predictive variables.
3. We developed a simulation model that investigates interspecific variation in different parameters of disturbance with variation in human visitation. We found that fitness-related responses, such as the quantity of food consumed by a species, are relatively sensitive to the distance at which animals detect humans, the frequency of disturbance by humans and the interaction of these factors, but are less sensitive to other characteristics.
4. We examined avian alert distance (the distance animals first orientated to an approaching threat, a proxy for detection distance) across 150 species, controlling for phylogenetic effects. We found that larger species had greater alert distances than smaller species, which could increase local spatial and temporal limitations on suitable habitat with increasing human visitation.
5. Synthesis and applications. Our results suggest that body size could be a potential predictor of responses to human disturbance across species, and could be used by managers to make conservation decisions regarding levels of human visitation to a protected site. We suggest that three things are essential to develop predictive models of how different species will respond to human disturbance. First, multiple indicators of disturbance should be studied to select those with lower intraspecific variation for a given study system. Secondly, the species-specific nature of responses should be identified. Thirdly, life history, natural history and other correlates with these species-specific responses must be assessed.


Blumstein, Daniel T.; Fernandez-Juricic, Esteban ; Zollner, Patrick A.; Garity, Susan C. 2005. Inter-specific variation in avian responses to human disturbance. Journal of Applied Ecology (2005) 42, 943?953.

Last updated on: August 11, 2006