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Bird disturbance and its impact

For many birds feeding time is limited to around low tide as they feed in the shallow waters. At high tide they need to rest on the shore or nearby to conserve energy and wait for the next low tide. Some birds are also restricted to feeding during daylight, which is very short during the winter.

During the winter period there can be high numbers of birds present and competition for food and resources.

During harsh winters, a prolonged cold spell can mean birds struggle to get sufficient feeding time in between tides and any disturbance in these conditions is more significant to bird populations.

Disturbance to wintering and passage birds can result in:

  • A reduction in time spent feeding due to repeated flushing/increased vigilance;
  • Increased energetic costs;
  • Avoidance of areas of otherwise suitable habitat, potentially with birds feeding on poorer quality locations; and
  • Increased stress.

Key breeding roosts are known on particular estuaries/shorelines and in specific locations where habitat and conditions enable territories to become established.

Recreational pressure adds to the stresses of defending a territory, laying eggs and rearing chicks which means that birds are often more vulnerable, and levels of public access to breeding areas can rise in the summer months too. During the breeding season, recreational disturbance can affect breeding success as it can result in nest desertion, potential trampling of eggs and an increase in predation.