Effects of ecotourists on bird behaviour at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Joanna Burger, Michael Gochfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Increasingly, natural areas are exposed to people who come to view, study or photograph wildlife. In order to develop appropriate management plans for both avian and human use of natural environments it is essential to understand how people affect foraging birds. The foraging behaviour of five species of water-birds at Loxahatchee (Arthur B. Marshall National Wildlife Refuge), part of the Everglades, in Southern Florida was observed, between 1992 and 1994, from a dike that received many visitors. Species examined included common gallinule (Gallinula chloropus), sora rail (Porzana carolina), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) and Louisiana heron (E. tricolor). These birds were observed before people were near, while people were present, and following the departure of people. Variation in feeding behaviour was largely explained by whether people were present, the number of people present, and the amount of noise made by the people. For all species, time devoted to feeding and number of strikes or pecks decreased while people were present. The percentage of time spent foraging and the number of strikes decreased as the noise made by people increased. Birds that were closer to the path flew away from people more often than birds that were further away. Birds usually swam or flew away from the path while people were present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Conservation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Bird-watchers
  • Birds
  • Ecotourists
  • Human disturbance
  • Management


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