Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Disturbance of shore birds by people and their dogs

What do you think, when told to think of wildlife on a beach? It probably isn’t crowds of people with their dogs running wild, but this does never the less need to be thought of and the impacts that this has, especially on the wading birds and other shore feeding animals. There are issues with otters, seals and the birds being disturbed continuously from their feeding and also with the disturbance and destruction of the nests of many species of shore bird. It is true that recreation has become accepted as a necessary commodity, but should it be at the expense of the diversity of the life on the shore? Dog owners understand the need to keep their dogs under control in parks or fields, but seem to feel no need to do so on a beach. This means the dogs are free to chase birds and destroy the nests and eggs of birds along the shoreline. There are very few beaches where dogs are not allowed or must be kept on a lead.

It needs to be considered the there is the possibilities that if a bird is disturbed once or twice it will return and continue in the same area to feed, but if the bird is constantly chased from feeding it will stop returning to that area to feed. The same goes for nesting, it is highly likely that if a bird is disturbed from its nest it will possibly abandon it, and if its nest is destroyed the birds will go else where to nest. This poses a permanent threat to the sea shore ecosystem not just for one season, but for every year after, even if the disturbance on the beach is reduced it may take years for the birds to return to the area. This occurrence of birds when regularly disturbed taking longer to return has been known for a while and was observed in a paper by Burger et al. in 2004


The shore birds play an important role in the ecosystem. This role includes predation on species that would otherwise become over-populated, having a negative impact on their food source. Due to increased species diversity at a higher trophic level, lower trophic levels may be put under too much pressure to sustain themselves.

These issues are becoming more common as the amount of people that frequent the shores increases and as more and more shores are becoming accessible to the public, and dogs have been observed to cause more disturbance than people alone would in several places and has been commented on in many cases and blogs world wide, (


  1. The vast majority of the public go to public beaches, leaving off the track ones alone.

    As beaches are being set aside for purely public use, with the majority of people using these, rather than off the track coves, is there not enough land for the birds to use for nesting?
    That they need not use the heavily visited beaches?
    Playing devils advocat, I can see both sides to this debate.

  2. Shore birds need the ecosystem that the shore provides to nest and raise their young.