Evaluating How the Group Size of Domestic, Invasive Dogs Affect Coastal Wildlife Responses: The Case of Flight-Initiation Distance (FID) of Birds on Southern Australian Beaches

  • S. Guinness
  • W. F. Van Dongen
  • P.-J. Guay
  • R. W. Robinson
  • M. A. WestonEmail author
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 29)


Accompanied, domestic dogs frequently disturb birds on coasts, and meet the ecological definition of invasive species. Dogs occur most commonly singly or in ‘packs’ of two dogs. We examine whether group size (one versus two leashed dogs) influenced Flight-initiation Distance (FID), a measure of wariness towards potential predators, of birds on southern Australian beaches. We report 303 FIDs from 16 species, of which seven species had sufficient data to compare responses between one and two dog approaches. None of the seven focal species varied their FID or escape modality (walk/run versus fly) with one versus two dogs approaching. Birds do not apparently judge risk associated with dogs in relation to ‘pack’ size. Regulations which reduce the number of dogs walked are therefore unlikely to reduce disturbance of coastal birds. Further studies, using unleashed dogs, and dogs which bark, may evoke greater responsiveness than reported here and may reveal indirect effects of dog group size.


Beach Canid Disturbance Gulls Pets Shorebirds 



This third year summer research project was funded by a Summer Research Scholarship (Victoria University, College of Engineering and Science), and a Summer Project Prize (Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences). Deakin Animal Ethics Approval (B32-2012) and DEWLP Permit 10007151 applied to this work. Write-up was supported by the Beach Ecology And Conservation Hub (BEACH, Venus Bay).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Guinness
    • 1
  • W. F. Van Dongen
    • 1
    • 2
  • P.-J. Guay
    • 2
  • R. W. Robinson
    • 2
  • M. A. Weston
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Science, Engineering and the Built Environment, Centre for Integrative EcologyDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Sustainability and InnovationVictoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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