Closure versus voluntary avoidance as a method of protecting migrating shorebirds on beaches in New Jersey


20 – 25

1 April 13

Joanna Burger, Lawrence J. Niles

Joanna Burger
Division of Life Sciences, Rutgers University, 604 Allison Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


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Managing shorebirds that use beaches requires understanding the responses of people, as well as the factors that contribute to the birds’ foraging efficiency during migration and winter.
We observed the  responses of people (and shorebirds) to two experimental management methods on beaches highly used by migratory shorebirds: 1) complete closure (Brigantine Beach, New Jersey), and 2) voluntary avoidance of shorebirds, or voluntary closure (Avalon Beach, New Jersey). We examined the types of  recreationists using each beach, visitation rates, response of recreationists to the two management methods, the compliance rate, and the response of shorebirds. We focused on Red Knot Calidris canutus rufa, Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Dunlin C. alpina and Sanderling C. alba.
Flock-size varied as a function of species and whether they were mixed or monospecific. Dunlin and Red Knots occurred in the largest flocks. The major recreationists at both beaches were anglers  (Brigantine) and walkers (Avalon), and most people visited the beach 1–6 times per month. Compliance  (not entering the closed area) at Brigantine Beach was nearly 100 % because of monitoring by researchers and park police, but at Avalon, 15 % of the time people did not voluntarily avoid the  shorebirds, and thus disturbed them. Voluntary avoidance of shorebirds varied significantly by type of recreationist. Anglers and birdwatchers were the most compliant, and dog-walkers and others (mainly joggers) were least compliant. Response to management also varied significantly by recreationist type;  more birdwatchers were positive than others, followed by anglers (Avalon) and dog-walkers (Brigantine). Most flocks of shorebirds flew away when confronted with people, and the return rate varied by flock composition and location.