How do birds react to drones

Drones are stressful for birds

How strongly do birds perceive drones as a danger? Researchers at the Sempach ornithological station investigated this question in a study. The findings are to flow into new guidelines.

(sda) So far, birds have been relatively undisturbed in the airspace. But more and more they have to share it with drones. In general, birds are more sensitive to remote-controlled flying objects than other wild animals, as a comprehensive literature study by the Sempach ornithological station in the journal “Plos One” shows.

However, birds react differently depending on the bird species. Some birds have already fled when the drone is still a long way away, according to the statement from the ornithological station on the study. Other species only showed increased alertness or did not seem to respond at all.

However, this does not mean that the drones have no negative impact, warn the experts: breeding birds usually stay in the nest even if they are disturbed, but could still be under stress. If they are disturbed too strongly and repeatedly, they can break off the brood or not even start. Swarms are quicker to flee.

Also a question of size

In general, large birds react more than small ones, and flocks of birds are more likely to flee than individual individuals or small groups, the researchers note. The size of the drone and the noise it causes also play a role.

Based on the findings, the ornithological station developed recommendations to keep the influence of drones on birds and other wild animals as low as possible. Together with authorities, drone users and nature conservation actors, rules for wildlife-friendly use of drones are to be developed over the next few months.

According to the recommendations, flights along cliffs should be avoided. This is especially true from February to July, when the peregrine falcon and eagle owl breed, both of which are sensitive to disturbances. You should also avoid take-offs and landings as well as abrupt changes of direction in the vicinity of birds.

A research dilemma? Flights in and over nature reserves should also be taboo, says the message. There is already a flight ban over bird reserves and federal hunting areas, which must be observed.

Moral Dilemma for Researchers

For researchers, however, this results in a certain moral dilemma, as drones are also increasingly being used to take stock of birds and other wild animals.

"Compared to an inspection of the area to count or the ascent of a person to an eyrie, drones represent a significantly lower disruption," said Michael Schaad from the ornithological station on request. However, due to the simplicity of the use of drones, the temptation is great to collect more data than before, so that the overall disruption could become greater. The ornithological station itself has not yet used drones.