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People get themselves away from busy urban areas to quiet and refreshing hiking trails for so many reasons. And when you go out hiking, you expect to see so many different creatures, including birds.  Unfortunately, birds are very rare these days and highly unlikely to come by in some hiking trails. But, what is the reason for this?

An article published by Kurt Repanshek on the National Parks Traveler shows that hiking trails themselves have no impact on the bird population.

Study Says Heavily Used Hiking Trails Drive Birds From The Area

And one thing we’ve noticed over the years is that there are not as many birds flitting about the trees as we expected. Now a study explains why: birds just don’t feel comfortable in the presence of hikers.

Published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the study’s results suggest that the trails themselves have less of an impact on forest birds than how frequently these paths are used by people. To minimize the impact on these forest creatures, people should avoid roaming from designated pathways, the researchers say.

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This means that the hiking trails have nothing to do with the decrease in the bird population. There is something else.

According to Science Daily, the presence of human beings in the hiking trails is what seems to scare birds away most of the time.

It’s not trails that disturb forest birds, but the people on them

The first study to disentangle the effect of forest trails from the presence of humans shows the number of birds, as well as bird species, is lower when trails are used on a more regular basis. This is also the case when trails have been used for many years, suggesting that forest birds do not get used to this recreational activity. Published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the finding suggests the physical presence of trails has less of an impact on forest birds than how frequently these recreational paths are used by people.

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Generally, birds are not used to humans so they try as much as possible to go far away from those hiking trails that are heavily used.

In her article on Earth, author Kay Vandette says that the number of birds near the trail continues to go down compared to the number of birds further away from the trail.

How human activity on forest trails impacts bird populations

We show that forest birds are quite distinctly affected by people and that this avoidance behavior did not disappear even after years of use by humans. This suggests not all birds habituate to humans and that a long-lasting effect remains,” said Yves Bötsch, the lead author the study. “This is important to show because pressure on natural habitats and nature protection areas is getting stronger and access bans are often ignored.

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In conclusion, the report suggests that heavily used trails will only see less of the bird population even in the future.


Since bird population is affected by heavily used hiking trails, using those trails less could see an increase in the number of birds in these trails.