Impact of leisure activities on birds

Along with the destruction of habitats and the deterioration of habitat quality, disturbance from human activities is considered a primary reason for the decline of many bird species. Human disturbance, especially from recreation, is expected to increase in the future.


In a comprehensive study, we were able to show how the reactions of animals are affected by human disturbance (Tablado & Jenni 2015). These findings raised the question about the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on territory establishment. We also investigated how short-term disturbance influences the use of space during the breeding period.


A question increasingly arising in practice is whether human activities influence things like the territory establishment of birds, and whether they have non-lethal effects on breeding investment and body reserves, similar to the presence of predators. Whether birds get used to human presence appears to depend on the species and the location. Knowledge of the effects of low-level disturbance on bird behaviour is the basis for guidelines defining the minimum required distance between a certain habitat and trails and provides arguments in favour of protective zones.


In his dissertation, Yves Bötsch showed that human disturbance influences the territory establishment of birds. Fewer birds and a smaller number of species settled in forest areas that were frequently disturbed in spring compared to undisturbed areas (Bötsch 2018; Bötsch et al. 2017). Human activities also influenced the flight behaviour of birds (Bötsch et al. 2018).
In her Master’s thesis, Patrizia Ugolini used activity tags to show that walking past the nests of breeding or feeding Common Blackbirds in hedges was enough to cause changes in behaviour. These behavioural changes differed depending on sex and status and were still visible 30 minutes after the disturbance (Ugolini 2018). In a second Master’s thesis, Daniel Scherl is now using VHF tags to study the spatial use of Blackbirds following a one-time encounter with humans.

Project management

Lukas Jenni, Susi Jenni-Eiermann


Bötsch, Y., S. Gugelmann, Z. Tablado & L. Jenni (2018):
Effect of human recreation on bird anti-predatory response.
Bötsch, Y., Z. Tablado, D. Scherl, M. Kéry, R. Graf & L. Jenni (2018):
Effect of Recreational Trails on Forest Birds: Human Presence Matters
Tablado, Z. & M. D'Amico (2017):
Impacts of terrestrial animal tourism.