Escape distance

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the hip hop group, see Flight Distance (hip hop group).
Flight initiation distance (FID) buffer from critical wildlife area. [1][2]

The escape distance (ED) of animals is the distance within which an animal will, upon observing a disturbing stimulus such as a human, exhibit an escape response, such as flushing (in the sense of being "flushed out") in the case of birds. More specifically, it is the upper bound of the set of distances within which the animal is certain to exhibit such a response should it observe the stimulus. It may also be termed flight initiation distance (FID), flush distance, or escape flight distance. The alert distance (AD) is the distance, by definition greater, within which the animal changes its behaviour in a manner enabling it to better observe the stimulus, as by raising the head in an alert posture, but does not necessarily flee unless the stimulus is also within the escape distance. [3][4][5] These measures are usually used to quantify the tolerance of wildlife to humans.

The area surrounding the animal which will cause escape behavior when encroached upon is called the flight zone.


Wildlife managers often use ED and FID to develop set-back distances to reduce human impacts on wildlife, [6][7][1][2] both in wildlife refuges, and, e.g., in planning areas for outdoor recreation.[8]

These measures are also important in birding and nature photography.

While escape distance has been generally used as a measure of tolerance, other changes in animal behavior in presence of humans, such as increased vigilance time at the cost of decreased feeding time, may have significant overall impact on wildlife. Therefore it is suggested that a more conservative measure, namely, the alert distance, should be used in determining minimum approaching distance.[8] The latter typically adds a certain buffer distance to the given tolerance measure.[2]

Sample values[edit]

Sample escape distances (mostly mean) from humans:

Birds of Europe

Because most of birds flee from humans, ornithologists and birdwatchers sometimes use digiscoping equipment, allowing them to take pictures from long distances.
Species ED [m] Ref.
Brant goose Branta bernicla (130-1000) 319 [4]
Pintail Anas acuta (100-500) 294 [4]
Grey heron Ardea cinerea 255 [5]
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (60-400) 236 [4]
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 162 [5]
Dunlin Calidris alpina (15-450) 70 [4]
Coot Fulica atra 68 [5]
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra 20-30 [9]
Blackbird Turdus merula 10 [9]
Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus 10 [9]

Birds of North America [2]

Species FID [m]
Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos 105-390
Rough-legged hawk Buteo lagopus 53-884
Bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus 50-884
Golden plover Pluvialis dominica 201
Great blue heron Ardea herodias 201
Merlin Falco columbarius 18-183
Prairie falcon Falco mexicanus 18-183
Great egret Ardea alba 101
Meadow lark Sturnella neglecta 30
Robin Turdus migratorius 9

Mammals of North America [2]

Species FID [m]
Pronghorn Antilocapra americana 235
Mule deer Odocoileus hemionus 149-250
Elk Cervus canadensis 85-201
Bison Bison bison 101

Factors affecting escape distances for birds[edit]

Fleeing blackbird

Escape distance may differ significantly depending on many circumstances.

  • Species [4][3][7][6][5][9] - for example mallard Anas platyrhynchos has shorter ED than pintail Anas acuta[4].
    • Body size is the best known general factor influencing interspecies differences. Very frequently large species are more timid than small species, because size affects how rapidly a bird can take off. [5][4]


  • Age - young birds are less shy, for example dunlin Calidris alpina[citation needed])
  • Location or rather habituation to walking people. [4] Mallards Anas platyrhynchos or Canada Geese Branta canadensis are less shy in a park than somewhere in the wild. Or Tits and Nuthatches near the feeder or in the park are less shy than in the wild.
  • Season. For example wintering bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula have shorter EDs than breeding ones. [9]
  • Origin of birds - sometimes wintering birds from the north, perhaps not knowing people, are less shy than native, for example nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes [9]
  • Given bird individual[citation needed]
  • Color of clothes of an observer and observer's behaviour [9]
  • Hunting status - quarry species have longer EDs than non-quarry, increasing during hunting season or after days with hunting. [4][5]
  • Flock size [5]
  • Flock composition - for example birds in mixed flocks of mallard Anas platyrhynchos and teal Anas crecca react at longer distances than those in single species flocks for either species. [5] Or dunlin Calidris alpina in flocks with other waders. [9]
  • Visibility of the stimulus to the birds[5]
  • Wind force [4]
  • Vegetation height [5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bentrup G. (2008). "Conservation buffers: design guidelines for buffers, corridors, and greenways.". Gen. Tech. Rep. (Asheville, NC: USDA, Forest Service, Southern Research Station.). SRS-109. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Bentrup, G. (2008). "Flight Initiation Distance Buffers". USDA National Agroforestry Center. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Ruddock M., Whitfield D. P. (2007). "A Review of Disturbance Distances in Selected Bird Species, A report from Natural Research (Projects) Ltd to Scottish Natural Heritage" (PDF). Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Laursen K., Kahlert J., Frikke, J. (2005). "Factors affecting escape distances of staging waterbirds" (PDF). Wildlife Biology 11 (1): 13–19. doi:10.2981/0909-6396(2005)11[13:faedos];2. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bregnballe T., Aaen K., Fox A. D. (2009). "Escape distances from human pedestrians by staging waterbirds in a Danish wetland" (PDF). Wildfowl. Special Issue 2: 115–130. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Fernandez-Juricic E., Jimenez M. D. , Lucas E. (2001). "Alert distance as an alternative measure of bird tolerance to human disturbance- implications for park design" (PDF). Environmental Conservation 28 (3): 263–269. doi:10.1017/S0376892901000273. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Blumstein D. T. (Oct 2003). "Flight-Initiation Distance in Birds Is Dependent on Intruder Starting Distance" (PDF). The Journal of Wildlife Management (Allen Press) 67 (4): 852–857. doi:10.2307/3802692. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Alert distance as an alternative measure of bird tolerance to human disturbance: implications for park design
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Gotzman J., Desselberger J. (1979). Z lornetką wśród ptaków [With binoculars among birds]. Nasze hobby [Our hobby] (in Polish) (1st ed.). Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Rolnicze i Leśne (PWRiL).