Polar Biology

, 29:717 | Cite as

Hardly hard-hearted: heart rate responses of incubating Northern Giant Petrels (Macronectes halli) to human disturbance on sub-Antarctic Marion Island

  • Marienne de Villiers
  • Mariëtte Bause
  • Melissa Giese
  • André Fourie
Short Note


Guidelines for visitors to sub-Antarctic Marion Island recommend 15 and 100 m minimum approach distances for breeding Northern (Macronectes halli) and Southern (Macronectes giganteus) Giant Petrels, respectively. Using artificial eggs containing FM transmitters, we measured the heart rate responses of incubating Northern Giant Petrels to pedestrian approaches. The mean resting heart rate was 80 beats per minute. Heart rates increased upon the detection of a person approximately 40 m away, and continued to increase during the approach to 5 m. Maximum increases over resting heart rate in response to natural disturbances and human approach were 97 and 204%, respectively. Northern Giant Petrels appear at least as sensitive to human disturbance as their congenerics. While low-key disturbance is unlikely to affect this solitary breeder as severely as it would the colonial Southern Giant Petrel, improved protection from disturbance could be achieved by restricting human passage through breeding colonies of Northern Giant Petrels to defined paths.


Human Disturbance Rest Heart Rate Heart Rate Response South Shetland Island Human Approach 
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.



The South African National Antarctic Programme, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism provided financial and logistic support. Anonymous reviewers are thanked for their input. Three anonymous referees are thanked for their contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marienne de Villiers
    • 1
  • Mariëtte Bause
    • 1
  • Melissa Giese
    • 2
  • André Fourie
    • 3
  1. 1.Avian Demography Unit, Department of Statistical SciencesUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of the Environment and Heritage, Migratory and Marine Species SectionAustralian GovernmentCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Fourie de Villiers and AssociatesSomerset WestSouth Africa

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