Behaviour 2019
Habitat-dependent changes in Red-crowned Crane vigilance behavior influenced by bird watching activities
Donglai Li1,2, Yu Liu3 Liu3, Huw Lloyd4, Zhengwang Zhang3, Mark E. Hauber2. 1Liaoning University, China , CH, China; 2University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana , IL , United States; 3Beijing Normal University, Beijing , CH, China; 4Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK, United Kingdom

The endangered red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) is one of the most culturally iconic and sought-after waterbird species by natural history photographers and bird watchers in East Asia. Photography and observations by people may represent a form of disturbance to foraging cranes and we do not yet know whether this is habitat dependent. Here we investigate how these activities influence the vigilance behavior of cranes foraging in two different types of habitats: in Suaeda salsa salt marshes and in S. salsa/Phragmites australis mosaic wetland habitat in the Yellow River Delta, China. We hypothesized that the taller P. australis vegetation may serve as a visual obstruction for cranes, causing them to increase the frequency of vigilance behavior. We found that both the frequency and duration of crane vigilance significantly increased in the presence of tourists. Greater frequency in crane vigilance only occurred in the much taller S. salsa/P. australis wetland mosaic vegetation whereas the duration of vigilance showed no significant difference between the two habitats.