Condor’s Top Cited, #9: Nesting Oystercatchers’ Response to Human Activity

FIGURE 2. To monitor the heart rate of nesting American Oystercatchers, the authors embedded tiny microphones in plastic eggs (A and B). Once covered and pained to resemble real oystercatcher eggs, the artificial-egg heart-rate monitors we added to active nests (C).

For the latest installment in our ongoing series of our most cited papers from 2014 and 2015, let’s take a look at a study from The Condor: Minimal changes in heart rate of incubating American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) in response to human activity by T.E. Borneman, E.T. Rose, and T.R. Simons.

Borneman et al. used heart rate to monitor the physiological response of American Oystercatchers to human activity in their nesting environment. Recording a wild birds’ heart rate is not a simple task, and the authors’ solution was to implant miniature microphones in artificial eggs, paint them to resemble oystercatcher eggs, and add them to active nests.

Although nesting oystercatchers were subjected to a variety of human activities, including loud low-altitude military overflights, the study found minimal effects of human activity on their heart rates. The authors suggest that the birds have become habituated to the presence of humans and feel relatively little stress as a result. “Provided that human activity is not lethal and does not render habitat unsuitable,” they state, “many species of wildlife, including American Oystercatchers, may habituate and adapt to some forms of human disturbance, allowing them to coexist in close proximity to humans.”

Read the paper at