Disturbances to Urban Waterbirds

Subject: Disturbances to Urban Waterbirds
From: Jill Dening <>
Date: Sun, 25 Jan 2009 14:08:08 +1000
Really? Interesting. And for all I know, it may not be currently done in Caloundra. But yes, I did worry about the spraying. That and a million other serious threats to shorebirds in the Pumicestone catchment. But I refuse to stress over things I can't control. I work on the things that I can do to make a positive improvement. I don't overload myself. I have this approach to protect myself from emotional and physical overload. It works for me.


Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

26° 51' 41"S	152° 56' 00"E

Greg & Val Clancy wrote:
I would be more worried about the flow-on effects of the mosquito spraying.  Do they prepare a Review of Environmental Factors for this worrying action?  I know that the former Maclean Shire Council used to spray for mosquitoes in pools in saltmarsh areas of the Clarence Estuary, north coast NSW.  I believe that this has now been discontinued.
Greg Clancy
Coutts Crossing
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2009 12:25 PM
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Disturbances to Urban Waterbirds

Hi Stephen,

Thank you for your very interesting and thoughtful posting. It really made me think. I have always told people, in answer to questions, that shorebirds appear to habituate to living close to airports, and I still believe that to be the case. However, night time is something I haven't considered. I would love to know how overnight roosting terns behave when a plane takes to the air from the nearby Caloundra (SEQ) airfield. I will look for an opportunity to find out in the future. Normally a helicopter passing overhead during the day flies too high to bother the birds. However, I have seen low-flying ultralites put the birds up. I don't know whether it's because of noise level or flying height with them. Possibly both.

In the Pumicestone Passage the local council uses helicopters to spray mangroves for breeding mosquitoes. Shorebird roosts are dotted along the largely undeveloped shoreline of the Passage. I have myself seen, and been told several times, that the birds don't tolerate the helicopters, which are not regular, and which must fly low in order to achieve their objective. As far as I know they don't spray at night.

I was also fascinated to learn of the build-up of numbers of ducks as night approaches. I didn't know about that (so few ducks here), so thanks. It may also fit in with my posting last week about nighttime movements of whistling ducks.


Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

26° 51' 41"S	152° 56' 00"E

Stephen Ambrose wrote:
Last Friday afternoon (23 January 2009) through to after dark I was
observing the behaviour of waterbirds from the bird hide at the Waterbird
Refuge, Sydney Olympic Park. Water levels at the wetland are quite low at
the moment, so waterbird numbers in the early part of the afternoon were
also quite low. However, from about 5 pm onwards the wetlands began to fill
up with birds as they came in to roost for the night. For instance, only 16
Chestnut Teal and 2 Grey Teal were on the wetlands during the count
conducted from 1530 to 1550 hrs. By the time of the count conducted from
1930 and 1950 hrs there were 219 Chestnut Teal and 156 Grey Teal. The last
count was conducted from 2025-2050 hrs the total Chestnut/Grey Teal count
was 395 birds (by this time it was too dark to distinguish between some
individuals of these two species).


There were few migratory shorebirds on the wetland, presumably because there
was very little water in the wetland, but there were lots of Black-winged
Stilts and Red-necked Avocets. Maximum counts for these two species were 67
Black-winged Stilts and 43 Red-necked Avocets.

The main purpose of this email is to report briefly on the reactions of the
waterbirds to helicopters flying low (300-400 m altitude over the wetland).
During the day, the waterbirds were habituated to nearly all the
disturbances around them, such as the noise from car/truck traffic flows
along nearby Bennelong Parkway, Hill Road and Homebush Bay Drive,
helicopters flying directly over the wetland or above the aforementioned
roads, low-flying planes approaching Sydney Airport, and distant background
noise from rock concerts associated with the Big Day Out Event at the nearby
Sydney Showground.

The only noticeable reaction to daytime disturbances occurred when the
occasional pedestrian using the nearby cycle/pedestrian path stopped and
observed birds from the open shoreline, or when there was thunder &
lightning. On these occasions, some species took flight and sounded alarm
calls before settling back on the wetland (e.g. Black-winged Stilts),
whereas others just swam or waded into deeper water near the centre of the
wetland (e.g. Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal and Red-necked Avocets).

 With respect to the thunder & lightning, it appeared that the birds became
flighty in response to the thunder rather than the lightning. The storm was
several kilometers away, so there was a gap of several seconds between the
lightning and the sound of thunder.

With respect to helicopters, waterbirds did not react noticeably to
helicopters flying overhead or nearby during the day. However, in the one
hour that I stayed at the wetland after dusk, two helicopters flew directly
over the wetland while the birds were roosting. Both helicopters had their
pilot lights on, but these lights were not strong enough to illuminate the
wetland. So, there was clearly a temporal change in the sensitivity of these
birds to helicopter disturbance. It would be interesting to know if this was
because they were roosting at the time of the disturbances, were disturbed
by the helicopters' pilot lights, are more sensitive to disturbances when it
is dark, greater densities of birds on a wetland are more reactive to
disturbances, or a combination of all of these things.


I'd like to hear of other peoples' observations of background disturbances
that waterbirds in urban environments have become habituated to, what
background disturbances never lead to habituation, and whether there are any
other observations of temporal sensitivities to background disturbances.


Stephen Ambrose,

Ryde, NSW




To unsubscribe from this mailing list, 
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
to: m("","birding-aus-request");">



To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
to: m("","birding-aus-request");">

No virus found in this incoming message. Checked by AVG. Version: 7.5.552 / Virus Database: 270.10.13/1912 - Release Date: 23/01/2009 6:54 PM

To unsubscribe from this mailing list, 
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU