Polar Biology

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 255–260 | Cite as

Individual variability of behavioural responses by Wandering Albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) to human disturbance

  • Marienne S. de Villiers
  • John Cooper
  • Peter G. Ryan


Sub-Antarctic Marion Island has had a permanent research station for 50 years and the island’s Wandering Albatrosses have been intensively studied for 20 years. The reactions of breeding birds to approaches by a human on foot were recorded. Three response variables were calculated: intensity of vocal reaction (IVR), intensity of non-vocal reaction (INR) and overall response index (ORI). At 5 m from the nest, twice as many birds stood and/or vocalised as at 15 m. Nearest neighbour distance, age and gender did not explain individual variability of responses. Study colony birds had higher IVR scores than non-study colony birds; birds at colonies closest to the station had the highest ORI scores. A better breeding record was associated with lower IVR and ORI scores, but a causative relationship remains to be demonstrated. A minimum viewing distance of 25 m is recommended for breeding Wandering Albatrosses.


Human Disturbance Neighbour Distance Nest Density Nest Defence Prince Edward Island 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Thanks are due to all those instrumental in compiling the Marion Island Wandering Albatross database, particularly Robert Crawford and Deon Nel. Permission to conduct research on Marion Island, as well as invaluable logistic support, were received from The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism through the South African National Antarctic Programme. Valuable comments from Leslie Underhill and Robert Crawford greatly improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marienne S. de Villiers
    • 1
  • John Cooper
    • 1
  • Peter G. Ryan
    • 2
  1. 1.Avian Demography Unit, Department of Statistical SciencesUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African OrnithologyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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