Thursday, 6 September 2007

Dogs scaring off birds

I was sitting in the beautiful sunshine today in my garden. I know I shouldn't be liking the sunny days, because we need rain, but I figure I can't make it rain so I'm going to enjoy the fantastic weather. Penny was lying nearby basking in the sunshine and contemplating the really beaut rubber ball she had 'fetched' a while ago.

I noticed a dove land fly down and land near her. She didn't see it at first. Then she did, and wandered closer to investigate. Just when I was starting to worry that she might leap on it - she's pretty fast - it flapped up into the tree with a clatter of wings. It made me think about an article I read today. Apparently some scientists in NSW have studied the effect of dog-walking on the movements of birds in the bush around Sydney. Partly it said:

The researchers looked at 90 woodland trails a few kilometres north of Sydney, half regularly used by dog-walkers and half where the animals were prohibited.

Dogs were walked, on leads, along the 250m-long (820ft) trails, followed 20 seconds later by an observer who counted the birds seen and heard. The experiment was repeated for walkers without dogs and for a control scenario where there were neither walkers nor dogs.

Dr Banks said: "The key finding is that dog-walking certainly does have an impact on birds - and we were quite surprised by the magnitude of the impact."

The team found that dog-walking was causing bird numbers to drop by an average of 41% at each site and the numbers of species counted fell by 35%.

The results were similar in sites often frequented by dog-walkers and those where the practice was prohibited, suggesting that birds did not get used to the dogs' presence, despite frequent encounters.

It's a vexed question, in my opinion. I'd like to see the study replicated before I'd be convinced that birds are more disturbed by dogs on lead than by groups of humans walking around. Anyway, I reckon the birds' instincts might not lead them to the conclusion that humans are the more dangerous, with their guns and rubbish and destruction of habitats. I don't know of too many dogs that have levelled forests or contaminated creeks and rivers.


KH said...

Urban birds don't seem to be bothered by pet dogs.

parlance said...

That seems to be the logical thing, seeing they see dogs around so much. That's why I think it's strange that this study says that rural birds can't also learn that dogs on leads don't present a great threat.

I'd certainly like to see this study replicated and verified before it becomes the basis of banning dogs from suburban or semi-rural bushland areas.

AH said...

Doesn't seem to be a comprehensive study so the conclusion can hardly be called definitive. Not convinced enough to curb any nature walks for me and my dog.

missy. said...

I also walk in Darebin Parklands. There are places for on-lead and other places for off-lead. The birds don't seem bothered by the dogs. They keep an eye on them and fly away if the dogs get very close but mostly they all seem to ignore each other. I like walking there because there is always someone there walking their dog, no matter what time of day I go. I think dog walkers are always there because they go even when they don't feel like going for a walk because they know that their dogs need the exercise. I don't think it would be so safe without the dog walkers. I am not looking forward to the snake season. Hope the warm weather goes away and we maintain cooler nights and days. Bring on the rain.

Anonymous said...

Hi Parlance,

My puppy Gypsy (8 months old) chases nearly every bird that even flies over my yard. I've seen her chasing butterflies too, which is funny to watch.

Craig McA.

parlance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
parlance said...

Hi, Craig!
Penny used to chase butterflies...and leaves, and moths, and blowflies, name it!
She still chases blowflies and eats them. Well, when she can catch them. You’d think we never fed her.

For a while our pond was the watering place for a beehive that was somewhere nearby and she used to try to catch them. I eventually put a fence around that part of the garden because I was so worried she might be allergic. But now, because of the change in the climate, we haven’t got that pond. So, I guess the poor old bees are drinking somewhere else. Thank goodness.

missy. said...

My dog used to go beserk when the hot air balloons were floating overhead! They tended to go over early in the morning and I used to worry about the neighbours.