Polar Biology

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 197–205 | Cite as

The effect of frequency and nature of pedestrian approaches on the behaviour of wandering albatrosses at sub-Antarctic Marion Island

  • Mariëtte Wheeler
  • Marienne S. de Villiers
  • Prideel A. Majiedt
Original Paper


The effects of disturbance frequency, pedestrian group size, history and approach distance were tested through standardised approaches to 148 brooding/guarding wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) at Marion Island in 2006. Seldom-visited birds were approached at different frequencies over a 3-day period and chick survival was monitored 2 weeks later. Two-person approaches were made to some seldom-visited birds and to birds that have recently been bled. Birds close to the station and in a long-term study colony were also approached. non-vocal response (NVR), vocal response (VR) and overall response (OR) of individuals were analysed. Frequency of approach did not influence short-term behavioural responses, but affected chick survival significantly—nests approached most often had the highest proportion of failures. Over the long-term, there was sensitisation to disturbance. Low OR ranks were found for 71.7% of seldom-disturbed birds, 41.7% of study colony birds and 28.6% of birds close to the station. Management regulations at the island are likely to be effective in protecting this species from human disturbance.


Human disturbance Approaches wandering albatross sub-Antarctic 



The South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP), Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, provided permission to conduct research and logistic support. Mariëtte Wheeler held a National Research Foundation (NRF) Prestigious PhD bursary and M.S. de Villiers received an NRF grant towards this research. Res Altwegg assisted with the statistical modelling.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariëtte Wheeler
    • 1
  • Marienne S. de Villiers
    • 1
  • Prideel A. Majiedt
    • 1
  1. 1.Animal Demography Unit, Department of ZoologyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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