Weston MA, O’Brien C, Kostoglou K, Symonds MRE (2020) Escape responses of terrestrial and aquatic birds to drones: towards a code of practice to minimise disturbance. Journal of Applied Ecology 57: 777-785
What’s the paper about?
Drones are increasingly being used for wildlife photography (not least the opening of Lion King films, from what I can tell). But what effect does this have on birds. We looked at this by flying a drone at different heights towards different species of roosting birds and noting their escape responses and flight (i.e. escape, not necessary flying) initiation distances. We found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the higher the drone, and the further away you start the drone, the less likely you are to disturb the birds
What’s the story behind it?
Curtis O’Brien was an Honours student of Mike Weston, my FID colleague here at Deakin, a couple of years ago and compiled an impressive set of data use a drone and flying it around near birds. Unfortunately, Curtis had to move on before he could complete the write-up of the paper, but Mike stepped in and turned these data into, with my analytical help, a really interesting and tight piece of research. I’ll be honest that we were a little bit amazed that Journal of Applied Ecology published it, not because it’s bad, but just that it was in some senses quite a preliminary analysis. I think because it is one of the first papers to look at the impact of drones on wildlife in a very systematic and quantitative manner, that they saw value in it. Also, getting two very nice reviews of it helped – sometimes you strike lucky.
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