© Marcel Burkhardt
Bötsch, Y., S. Gugelmann, Z. Tablado & L. Jenni (2018)
Effect of human recreation on bird anti-predatory response.
PeerJ 6: e5093.
Wildlife perceive humans as predators, and therefore normally flushes. Flight initiation distance (FID) is the distance a human can approach an animal at a steady pace until it flushes. Recently, several studies showed differences in within-species FID according to human presence by comparing urban and rural habitats, with urban birds showing reduced FIDs. However, urban and rural habitats also differ in structure, which might affect FID. Therefore, in order to understand the real effect of human presence, we investigated whether differences in FID are also present in natural habitats (forests), differing only in the intensity of human use for recreation. We found that human frequentation had a distinct effect on bird escape responses, with shorter FIDs in forests more-heavily frequented by humans than in forests rarely visited by humans. Whether this finding is driven by non-random spatial distribution of personalities (shy vs. bold) or phenotypic plasticity (habituation to humans) cannot be assessed with our data. Studies relying on FIDs should also incorporate human recreation intensity, as this affects the measurements strongly.