Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 10, Issue 11, pp 1949–1962 | Cite as

Birds at a Southern California beach: seasonality, habitat use and disturbance by human activity

  • Kevin D. Lafferty


Use of a Santa Barbara beach by people and birds varied in both time and space. There were 100 birds, 18 people and 2 dogs per kilometer. Bird density varied primarily with the season and tide while human activity varied most between weekend and weekday. Bird distributions along the beach were determined mainly by habitat type (particularly a lagoon and exposed rocky intertidal areas) For crows and western gulls, there was some evidence that access to urban refuse increased abundance. Interactions between birds and people often caused birds to move or fly away, particularly when people were within 20 m. During a short observation period, 10% of humans and 39% of dogs disturbed birds. More than 70% of birds flew when disturbed. Bird species varied in the frequency that they were disturbed, partially because a few bird species foraged on the upper beach where contact with people was less frequent. Most disturbances occurred low on the beach. Although disturbances caused birds to move away from humans, most displacement was short enough that variation in human activity did not alter large-scale patterns of beach use by the birds. Birds were less reactive to humans (but not dogs) when beach activity was low.

beach birds disturbance dogs recreation shorebirds 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin D. Lafferty
    • 1
  1. 1.United States Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Marine Science InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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