Knowing the consequences of disturbance for multiple species and all disturbance sources is crucial to mitigate disturbance impacts in densely populated areas. However, studies that observe the complete disturbance landscape to estimate cumulative costs of disturbance are scarce. Therefore, we quantified responses, frequencies and energetic costs of disturbance of four shorebird species on five high tide roosts in the Wadden Sea. Roosts were located either in a military air force training area or were predominantly affected by recreational disturbance. In the military training area, infrequent transport airplanes and bombing jets elicited the strongest responses, whereas regular, predictable activities of jet fighters and small civil airplanes elicited far smaller responses. Disturbance occurred more frequently at roosts near recreational than near military activities, as recreation was prohibited in the military area during operation days. On average, birds took flight due to military, recreational or natural disturbance (e.g. raptors) 0.20–1.27 times per hour. High tide disturbance increased daily energy expenditure by 0.1%–1.4%, of which 51% was due to anthropogenic disturbance in contrast to natural disturbance. Costs were low for curlews Numenius arquata, oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus and gulls Larus spp, but higher – and potentially critical – for bar-tailed godwits Limosa lapponica as they were most susceptible to aircraft and raptors. Given that bar-tailed godwits have previously been found to be least susceptible to walker disturbances, our results suggest that interspecific differences in susceptibility depend on disturbance source type. In our study area, aircraft disturbance impacts can be reduced by avoiding jet fighter activities during periods when high water levels force birds closer to military targets and by limiting bombing and transport airplane exercises.
These data include observed bird numbers and disturbances on the Wadden Island Vlieland. See ReadMe.txt for an explanation of each data file and all columns. See http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acv.12546 for a description of how the data was collected.