Vessel & Zodiac operations near birds:
Sometimes spectacular concentrations of seabirds may be found out at sea – rafts of birds either feeding on the surface, diving, or simply resting and bathing. Many of these birds may have flown for hundreds or thousands of miles, often to find food for their young.
- Be aware of birds in the water, slow down and / or alter course to avoid collision.
- Stay on the fringes of these concentrations. Ships should stay 100 meters away and small boats or Zodiacs 30 meters away.
- Birds such as penguins may be subject to disturbance by Zodiac operations close to landing sites or colonies.
- Approach or depart a landing site or colony slowly to minimize any disturbance.
- Avoid boat operations in waters close to where birds enter and exit, are bathing, or are feeding close to colonies.
- Staff/crew should assess the best landing point.-ideally as far from the birds as possible. This is particularly important if birds are moulting near the shore.
- There may be occasions when swimming penguins find themselves in a zodiac when they "porpoise". Occupants should remain quiet and wait for the penguin to find its own way out. It is normally not necessary to assist.
- Under no circumstances should feeding of the birds occur.
Viewing birds ashore
If parent birds are blocked from returning to their nests, increased predation of eggs and chicks by gulls and skuas may occur. In addition, parent birds will waste precious energy by avoiding human obstacles on the way to their nests.
- Walk slowly and encourage visitors to simply sit quietly and watch the animals.
- Avoid blocking "walkways" in colonies, and water entry and exit points.
- Take care in tussock grass where birds may be nesting in burrows and walkways may be hidden by foliage.
- If skuas (jaegers) or terns start dive-bombing, they are protecting young or nests. Retreat in the direction you approached. Be aware that eggs and young are well camouflaged.
Recommended approach distances
- In general, keep 5-10 meters (15-30 feet) from nesting seabirds.
- Keep 10 meters (30 feet) from nesting, and 25 meters (75feet) from displaying albatross on South Georgia.
- When on the same level as, or walking above, nesting giant petrels stay 25 - 50 meters (75 - 150 feet) away, if possible.
Source and image: IAATO