Habitat type determines the effects of disturbance on the breeding productivity of the Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) Science Article 1


Numerous studies have examined the causes and impacts of human disturbance on birds, but little is known about how these impacts vary among habitats. This is of applied importance both for predicting bird responses to changes in disturbance and in planning how to reduce disturbance impacts. The Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata, a key heathland breeding species, occupies territories in a range of heathland types. Three territory habitat groups were identified: heather-dominated territories, heather territories with significant areas of European Gorse Ulex europaeus and territories containing Western Gorse U. gallii. Productivity was significantly affected by the timing of breeding in all habitats, but disturbance only appeared to have a significant impact on the productivity of birds in heather territories. Disturbance events in heather territories delayed breeding pairs for up to 6 weeks. This significantly decreased both the number of successful broods raised and the average number of chicks fledged per pair. Nests situated close to territory boundaries in heather territories, with high numbers of disturbance events, were more likely to fail outright. It was determined that an average of between 13 and 16 people passing through a heather territory each hour would delay breeding pairs sufficiently to prevent multiple broods.

GISELLE MURISON, JAMES M. BULLOCK et al., Ibis 149 (s1), 16-26

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