Ecotourism attempts to provide sustainable tourism with a focus on experiencing natural areas to foster environmental appreciation. However, it is often seen as a paradox, since associated infrastructure and activity can have detrimental effects on wildlife. One aspect that has been overlooked in this context is the potential impact of ecotourists on vocal behaviour, especially of birds. Many birds are susceptible to anthropogenic noise, avoiding noisy areas, or changing vocal activity within them. We used passive recording techniques to quantify vocal behaviours of a native Australian songbird, the eastern yellow robin, at an ecotourist resort to investigate how tourist presence might affect vocal behaviours. We found that during peak tourism seasonal periods, robins sang fewer songs, and these songs were shorter. However, this same pattern was observed on weekdays compared with weekends, when tourist numbers are generally lower. This seemingly contradictory pattern may be explained by the fact that maintenance of the resort grounds occurred predominantly on weekdays, with noise levels comparable to those detected during periods of high tourism. Thus, ecotourism infrastructure can have layered effects on bird vocal activity: tourist numbers as well as maintenance practices should be considered within the context of local wildlife conservation.
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Vol. 68 • No. 1