Little is known about how non-consumptive recreationists perceive their impacts on animals and how this relates to recreationist behavior. We surveyed attitudes and behaviors relating to bird disturbance of 179 birdwatchers who visited a world-renowned, restricted-access birdwatching destination (the Western Treatment Plant [WTP], Victoria, Australia). We distributed a 10-page, 49-question survey to birdwatchers at the WTP and posted it to a mailing list of those who held birdwatching access permits. The questionnaire explored socio-demographic profiles of respondents, and their bird- watching behaviors and attitudes to bird disturbance. Birdwatchers regarded vehicles as particularly disturbing and some bird groups, and breeding birds, as especially sensitive to disturbance. They generally disagreed with the contention that birdwatchers and plant workers disturb birds. All respondents reported using strategies to mitigate bird disturbance (e.g., keeping quiet and distant). Those who adopted more strategies to mitigate disturbance agreed more with the contention that birdwatchers and workers cause disturbance, and that breeding birds are especially sensitive to disturbance. Our results suggest that birdwatchers who perceive that their activity disturbs birds are more likely to modify their behaviors to minimize the disturbance. As such, wildlife managers and educators must clearly communicate possible impacts of birdwatching to birdwatchers to maximize the uptake of ethical birdwatching practices.
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