Figueiredo de Almeida Silva, L. (2020). Effects of human disturbances on birds at the Avon-Heathcote Estuary. Lincoln University.
Sponsored by the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust in 2020 via their summer scholarship grant, this research project by Lincoln University student, Leila Figueiredo de Almeida Silva, aimed to investigate how human recreational activities impact birds in the Ihutai estuary. Human activities such as dog walking, driving, or using boats are known to affect birds’ reproductive success, time budgets, and spatial and temporal distribution, and therefore decrease population numbers. This is especially an issue in Te Ihutai, as it is a wetland of international significance and home to many threatened native bird species.
The study used Flight Initiation Distance (FID) as a measurement of human-induced stimuli to birds during the 2019-2020 Christmas holidays when recreational activities and migratory bird numbers were highest in Te Ihutai. Overall, 43 disturbances were measured across 11 species of shorebirds and waterfowl. The mean FID was 62m and most disturbances were caused by shellfish gatherers (n=14) and dogs off leash (n=13). These observations demonstrated that many people ignore signs that limit access to important bird areas and undertake recreational activities without considering potential disturbances to birds. To remedy this, the report recommended the creation of a no-disturbance zone to protect the estuary edge of the Bromley Oxidation Ponds and act as a refuge for birds.