Grand Prix ruffles feathers

The first major survey of Albert Park's black swan population shows they stick around for the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, despite 300,000 people and scores of noisy cars.

But researchers warn while the event does not scare the birds away, it could have serious long-term effects on their health.

In a collaborative study led by The University of Melbourne, researchers including Dr Patrick Guay from the Institute for Sustainability and Innovation studied the behavior and hormonal responses of the lake's black swans during and after the Grand Prix.

The study revealed black swan population numbers were lowest one week before the event and rose gradually over the course of the study, peaking after the event, suggesting that the disturbance does not trigger mass emigration.

However, stress levels in the birds peaked during the Grand Prix and the potential long-term impact of such disturbance on reproductive success, individual fitness and population health deserves more evaluation.

Dr Guay said studies on other bird species had shown negative long-term consequences from such stress.

He said wildlife responses to man-made disturbance could range from emigration to behavior changes or elevated stress, but that these responses were rarely researched.

The study was recently published in the PLoS ONE academic journal.

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