Short-term responses of king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus to helicopter disturbance at South Georgia

Hughes, Kevin A. and Waluda, Claire M. and Stone, Richard E. and Ridout, Martin S. and Shears, John R. (2008) Short-term responses of king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus to helicopter disturbance at South Georgia. Polar Biology, 31 (12). pp. 1521-1530. ISSN 0722-4060. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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The short-term behavioural effects of helicopter overflights on breeding king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus at South Georgia were examined. Seventeen helicopter overflights were made at altitudes between 230 and 1,768 m (750-5,800 ft) above ground level. Noise from the aircraft engines and helicopter blades increased sound levels in the colony from a background level of 65-69 dB(A) to a maximum mean peak level of 80 dB(A) during overflights. Penguin behaviour changed significantly during all overflights at all altitudes compared to the pre- and post-flight periods. Pre-overflight behaviour resumed within 15 min of the aircraft passing overhead and no chicks or eggs were observed to be taken by predators during overflights. Non-incubating birds showed an increased response with reduced overflight altitude, but this was not observed in incubating birds. Variability in overflight noise levels did not affect significantly the behaviour of incubating or non-incubating birds. Penguins exhibited a reduced response to overflights as the study progressed (despite later flights generally being flown at lower altitudes) suggesting some degree of habituation to aircraft. To minimise disturbance to king penguins we recommend a precautionary approach such that overflights are undertaken at the maximum altitude that is operationally practical, or preferably are avoided altogether.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Aptenodytes patagonicus; Behaviour; Disturbance; Helicopter; King penguin; Overflight
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Divisions: Faculties > Science Technology and Medical Studies > School of Mathematics Statistics and Actuarial Science > Statistics
Depositing User: Jane Griffiths
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2009 13:03
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2014 11:08
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