Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Dogs on Leashes, Birds on Beaches

By Kiran Dhanjal-Adams

A bit of maths can help managers minimise the impact of dogs on migratory shorebirds.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Walking the dog on the beach is a great way to end a hot summer’s day. Yet little migratory shorebirds are also soaking up the late afternoon sunshine. These little creatures have made it all the way from their breeding grounds in eastern Russia and Alaska to spend the Australian summer feeding on the abundant sea life in the intertidal zone. They patiently wait until low tide to gorge on worms, shells and crabs, before retreating as the tide comes back in.

This feeding period is critical to these birds. Many will have flown non-stop all the way from Alaska to Australia, some 11,700 km in 6 days! Consequently, migratory shorebirds are hungry. They will have lost 50–80% of their body mass.

However, dogs have a tendency to chase birds. It’s no big deal if it happens only once, but these disturbances can be constant. Repeated disturbances can force birds to leave a good feeding area for less suitable feeding areas. And even if they move, dogs are likely to be wherever they move to.

Anything preventing birds from gaining enough weight can mean they will be unable to migrate and breed. Worse, it could mean they migrate and die of starvation before even getting to their breeding grounds.

This is a major problem. Many species of migratory shorebird are in rapid decline across Australia. Several species have been recently listed as threatened. In...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.