Bird photographers may be beneficial to nesting sites, new study shows


A student at Guangxi University in China has made a surprising discovery about how photographers affect the nesting sites of Nonggang Babbler.

While many might assume that any sort of photography close to nesting sites would be disruptive, the research shows that the opposite is true.

More often than not wildlife photographers get a bad rep for negatively affecting animals. However, the study into the effect of photographers on nesting sites of Nonggang Babbler shows that the photographer's proximity to the nests is actually increasing the number of birds that hatch.

In 2008, Nonggang Babbler was discovered in a limestone tropical forest region in southern China. Since then, there has been a sharp increase in the number of bird photographers visiting the area and scientists were worried about the effect this would have on nesting sites.

Xiaocai Tan, a PhD student at Guangxi, was part of a study researching the effect of photographers on bird nesting sites, specifically monitoring nest predation and parental feeding rates. Statistics show that previously anywhere from 60-70% of nestlings in the region were being killed by other birds, mammals and reptiles making young Nonggag Babblers extremely vulnerable.

Over the course of 12 months, Tan and her team monitored 277 bird nests and 42 different species only to discover that the predation rate on nests that were being photographed was significantly lower than the ones that weren't. In fact, the nests that were being photographed only had a predation rate of 13.3% while the un-photographed nests had a predation rate of 63.3%.

While this research shows that photography has had a positive impact on nesting sites, wildlife experts aren't encouraging photographers to visit nest sites. Aiwu Jiang, the investigator who led the study said: "There needs to be a further assessment on other aspects of nesting and other kinds of stress responses before the total effect of bird photography can be understood."



X Tan, S Liu, E Goodale & A Jiang. 2022. Does bird photography affect nest predation and feeding frequency? Avian Research, vol 11. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.avrs.2022.100036.