We assessed the effects of the presence and the frequency of canoe and pedestrian disturbance during two breeding seasons on multiple behavioral responses (scanning, freezing, grooming, sleeping, moving, wing-raising, and standing-up) of Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) nestlings in a breeding colony in southeast Chicago. Short-term responses (min) of Black-crowned Night Heron nestlings showed that they were sensitive to the presence of aquatic and pedestrian disturbance by increasing vigilant (scanning) and anti-predator (freezing) behaviors and decreasing maintenance (grooming, sleeping) behaviors. Nestlings were also sensitive to recreationist behavior, with less time allocated to sleeping and more time to freezing and scanning in the presence of inquisitive pedestrians than pedestrians who passed by the colony without stopping. However, medium-term responses (days) were insensitive to the frequency of disturbance, but spatial proximity to the source of disturbance influenced time scanning, sleeping, and freezing). Our results have wide implications for the protection of the Black-crowned Night Heron in States in which it is considered a species of conservation concern. We recommend that boating activities should be precluded during the initial part of the breeding season and buffer zones of 50 m should be established around the colony to minimize human disturbance. However, under these conditions, restrictions on the number of visitors during the breeding period may not be necessary.
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Vol. 30 • No. 4