Effect of tour boat activity within an ecological reserve on the behaviour of three Atlantic alcids : common murres (Uria aalge), razorbills (Alca torda), and Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica)

Hearne, Edmund P. (1999) Effect of tour boat activity within an ecological reserve on the behaviour of three Atlantic alcids : common murres (Uria aalge), razorbills (Alca torda), and Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica). Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

To assess the impact of tourism on breeding alcids, Common Murre, Razorbill, and Atlantic Puffin alarm behavior before, during, and after tour boat passages was quantified on Gull Island (45° 15' N, 52° 46' W), Witless Bay Seabird Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland, Canada in 1996 and 1997. Tour boat disturbance induced murre alert-posture and alarm-bowing. Tour boat activity did not provoke murre fly-offs or inhibit arrivals at breeding ledges throughout most of the incubating and brooding periods. However late in the brooding period, boat activity induced murres to move to the edge of breeding ledges and fly-off. Moreover, tour boat passages caused murres to entirely vacate club sites until the boat left the area for up to an average of 15 min. Incubating and brooding Razorbills left their nesting crevices with eggs and chicks unattended during boat passages. For Razorbills at club locations, tour boat passages induced fly-offs, arrivals, alert-posture, and standing. In addition, tour boat activity caused off-duty and non-breeding Razorbills to both enter and leave nesting crevices. Common Murres and Atlantic Puffins entirely vacated inshore island waters during tour boat passages until the boat left the area for approximately 10 min. Tour boat activity induced puffins to fly from inshore island waters to breeding slopes but did not normally cause puffin fly-offs or panic flights from land. -- Loud and slow boats induced the greatest amount of disturbance to Common Murres. Likewise, loud boats caused the greatest disturbance to Razorbills. Overall, a decrease in boat distance to Common Murres and Razorbills induced greater proportions of birds to exhibit alarm behavior. -- These forms of disturbance could be significantly affecting alcid recruitment and reproductive performance at the colony by disrupting self-maintenance and social (mate and nest-site selection) activity. I did not find any direct evidence that gull predation of alcid eggs, chicks, or adults was exacerbated by tour boats. Findings from this study indicate tour boats can negatively impact breeding alcids regardless of breeding period or seabird breeding status.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/783
Item ID: 783
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references.
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Date: 1999
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador--Bay de Verde Peninsula--Gull Island
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Wildlife watching industry--Environmental aspects--Newfoundland and Labrador--Gull Island; Common murre--Behavior--Newfoundland and Labrador--Gull Island; Razor-billed auk--Behavior--Newfoundland and Labrador--Gull Island; Atlantic puffin--Behavior--Newfoundland and Labrador--Gull Island; Common murre--Effect of stress on--Newfoundland and Labrador--Gull Island; Razor-billed auk--Effect of stress on--Newfoundland and Labrador--Gull Island; Atlantic puffin--Effect of stress on--Newfoundland and Labrador--Gull Island

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