Avian research that involves potential disturbance to the study species may have unintended fitness consequences and could lead to biases in measurements of interest. The effects of band resighting on the behavior of mixed-species flocks of staging waterbirds were evaluated against recreational pedestrian activity that was expected to cause flushing. We found a model with additive effects of distance (near, 0-50 m, or far, 50-200 m) and disturbance type (researcher or pedestrian) best explained flock behaviors. The proportion of staging flocks that flushed in response to pedestrians was greatest when pedestrians were within 50 m of the flock. Virtually no flushes were observed in response to researchers, regardless of distance. These results could assist in alleviating concerns that accepted protocols used for intensive band resighting studies on staging seabirds of special conservation status, such as Roseate (Sterna dougallii) and Common (S. hirundo) terns, may have adverse effects. Our framework could be used by others to test the effects of similar research on sensitive species.
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Vol. 39 • No. 4