Do Birds Attack Drones? | Drones vs Birds

Drones use has become quite common all around the world. These aerial vehicles are participating in a wide range of activities from military applications to recreational and commercial use like food deliveries. 

Intro Video - Backtobirds
Intro Video - Backtobirds

These aircraft systems are being experimented with for several other purposes, indicating the time when more of these aircraft will take to the skies. However, this may bring the birds at risk of improper drone use occurs. 

Other than birds, technology is one of the things that interests me a lot. A while back, one of my friends called me to try out flying the drone that he just bought. Being an enthusiast, this was not something I could have missed. 

We tried outflying the drone, and the experience was great. But, one question that came to my mind while doing so is how do birds react to drones, and is it possible that they can attack drones.

To get answers to these questions, I spend a good amount of time researching.

With all the information I gathered, I have compiled all the information below in detail to help you know about the same.

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Do Birds Attack Drones?

Birds, especially the large ones, often attack drones, making drone strikes quite common around the world. Drones – unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are attacked because birds either mistake them as their threat or prey.

When birds see a drone entering into their territory where they nest and hunt, they assume it is an invader creature. And as birds protect their territory, they follow their instinct of attacking the threat. 

But this doesn’t imply to every bird or species. Whether a bird will attack the drone or not, depends completely on the individual behavioral characteristics of the bird. It is more of an instinct thing. 

Majorly, birds of prey and seabirds, are the birds that attack drones the most. But nesting birds, no matter their size, will not entertain drones near them. They will get threatened and thus, in response, would attack it. 

It is experienced that the chances of attacking the drone are higher by the birds around cities than the ones living in the wild. Thickly populated areas such as beaches, harbors, etc experience more drone strikes. 

Another reason behind it is that urban birds respond more bravely against unknown objects flying in the sky.

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How do birds react to drones?

Most of the birds may get scared away with drones as they are unknown to them and generate noise and movements. However, some may react aggressively and would not even wait to attack it. 

The birds of prey, mainly eagles and hawks, tend to come either from above or from behind, following the drone for a while before accelerating ahead to assail it. The hungry ones usually respond by targeting the drone with talons. 

In Australia, Africa, Europe, and America, Eagles have been seen reacting the same way to drones, making them their biggest threat.

The same has been observed in the UK where seagulls pose a greater danger. Other than them, hawks, owls, geese, and crows are often seen reacting the same way. 

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Are drones safe for birds? Can drones affect the bird’s wildlife! How?

Drones are not completely safe for birds because they can cause harm to the environment in which birds live, if not flown safely by keeping utmost care of them.

So, it would not be wrong to say that they can impact the birds’ wildlife in several ways.

Here are some of the ways by which drones could harm the birds if you fly them irresponsibly.

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Disrupting Nests

If birds see any drone flying too close to their nesting sites, they often become scared because of its noise and unfamiliarity to them. Thus, the birds leave their nests abandoned and fly away, causing eggs or young to be stranded. 

Some mother birds may attack the drone to secure their eggs and chicks. But if the birds are small, they may not have enough strength to beat a drone. Thus, the birds could themselves become the victims of the drones, leading to injuries and even death. 

Both of the outcomes directly impact the local birds’ populations by reducing their breeding success.

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Midair Collisions

A drone could fly into a flock of birds, colliding with them and causing severe injuries to them. The propellers of the drone are sharp and thus, if any bird comes in contact with them, the bird could get cuts, wounds, and can even die immediately. 

Interrupting Birds’ Feeding

If a drone is flown around the foraging or hunting sites of the birds, the birds may leave the site rich in good food resources and go looking for another site where they may get less nutritious food resources.

The drone use may force the birds to look for other sites. Therefore, it may affect the nourishment of birds, causing a decline in the overall health of the birds and their next generation. 

Related Read: How Do Birds Find Bird Feeders? | Will Birds Come To A Bird Feeder?

Provoking Drone Strikes

When a drone flies in the territory of the large birds of prey, it provokes the birds to attack as they consider it as their threat to their eggs or nests. They may also attack thinking of it as their competitor. 

All of this diverts the birds from their responsibilities such as attending to the needs of their young or eggs, foraging, taking care of their own survival needs, etc.

Interrupting Birds’ Mating Process

If a drone is flying anywhere near the mating spot of birds, the birds may abandon it immediately.

Drones may directly impact the courtship displays by scattering their leks. During the mating process, the birds can be sensitive to any disturbance.

Thus, drone use in such spots may badly impact the bird’s ability to choose their mate and produce young ones. 

Despite all these potential risks to birds because of drone use, there are many other ways this great technology can be used to be extremely helpful to these creatures.

If they are being used at appropriate locations and in responsible ways, they would not cause any harm. 

Ways by which drones can help birds.

Monitoring the Populations 

Drones can be effective in calculating the accurate bird populations in remote locations where it’s difficult for humans to survey because of factors such as accessibility, finances, etc.

The accurate data can help in knowing about the population shifts and better conservation measures for them.

Minimising Poaching

Drones can help collect evidence regarding the suspected illegal actions and record poaching videos easily.

It would not require any risk-taking to the observers. Through evidence, the poachers can be convicted, and thus, the illegal activities against wildlife can be minimized.

Filming Birds

Many commercial filming of birds requires drones to take aerial footage that is otherwise extremely difficult to take. The footage taken by drones seems more realistic, especially when they are used for nature’s videos and photography.

They may even help people to know and understand birds’ wildlife, inspiring more people to contribute to bird conservation. 

How to stop birds attacking my drone?

You can prevent birds from attacking your drone in several ways if you are out flying. Here are some of them.

Make your drone look different

It is the easiest way to make birds realize that the unknown object they see flying in the sky is not any other bird as a threat. If you get successful in standing out your drone, you can save it from birds’ attacking.

Usually, drones are dark-colored and made of metal thus, they resemble another bird to birds. So, to make it stand out, you can add bright colors to your drone with some reflective tapes, colored decals, mirrored discs, and shiny little lights. 

Avoid Areas that are birds’ hot-spots

Areas, where birds do nesting and foraging or gather as large flocks, must be avoided to prevent collision and attacks. 

Fields, meadows, lakes, streams, bio-diverse paddocks, and chicken farms are some of the hotspot areas where carnivorous birds often find their prey. The rich availability of food resources in such areas makes them suitable for nesting as well. 

You should scout out the area you want to fly your drone in before knowing all these things. You can contact the local bird-watching organizations near your place to know if there are some spots recommended for drone use.

Prefer flying during the early hours of the day

Large birds of prey consider flying at the time when the air becomes warm to lift them, thus helping the bird to hover, move around, and rise easily. This is also the reason why the birds are not as active in the early morning as they are during the daytime. 

This helps them conserve their energy for other tiring activities such as hunting. So, there are fewer chances of birds attacking the drone in the morning.

Avoid seasons with high bird activity

There are some times of the year when high bird activity is observed. They are mostly the migration season, breeding season, and the winters, which should be avoided to prevent your drones from attacking.

The spring and autumn are times when migration remains at its peak. Whereas, the breeding season is the time when birds are most active, protective, and aggressive.

If you live in warmer parts of the world, the winters may be the time when birds would visit your place in search of a warmer climate. 

These ways are sure helpful in preventing a bird attack but there is no way to stop them 100%. So, it also becomes important for a drone driver to know how to avoid getting crushed when under a bird attack. 

The best way to do so is by taking evasive actions such as pulling up, pulling out, leaving behind your opponent, maneuvering to a secure spot, and ensuring you land safely. 

Another thing that requires your attention is the battery levels of your drone. 

Some of the other tactics that might help you in seeing off a bird attack include:

  • If you are flying a drone somewhere where you can expect a bird attack to happen, you should immediately get out of the place, but this doesn’t mean that you fly your drone out of your line of sight. You should use your drone’s function to help it get away and be back to you.
  • When a bird attacks from above, it’s better to not land your drone immediately as this would make the bird sense victory. Thus, when your drone lands, the bird may continue to attack the grounded drone as well. Also, drones are not so quick in landing. 
  • Despite the landing, climbing is recommended by the experts to get out of this problem. Because this is just the opposite of what birds would be expecting their victim to do. Also, it is difficult for birds to soar in a vertical direction. The drones are better and faster at climbing than a bird.

Are birds afraid of drones? Do drones scare away birds? 

Drones scare the birds quite easily and thus, are even used to scare the birds away from farms, airports, etc.

The drones that are used to scare birds come with a speaker that usually plays sounds of their predator or otherwise any other loud sound. The special drone called ‘screechers’ plays different sounds that frighten the birds after combining them. 

What happens if a bird hits your drone?

If a bird hits a drone, both the bird and the drone may get subjected to damages. 

The birds may get injured, through the propellers of the drone or if they are small in size, they may also get shocked after the collision. On the other hand, drones may suffer malfunctioning if a strong bird attacks them. 

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Are there birds trained to attack drones?

In several parts of the world, governments and agencies have started training birds of prey, especially eagles, to destroy the drones flying in the sky as a defense against terrorists, criminals, or anyone who invades the restricted airspace.  

France, Dutch, and Netherland are some of the leading nations to use birds of prey for defensive purposes.

The birds of prey will be provided with proper training so that they can be deployed in sensitive areas such as airports where drones are prohibited. 

These birds have appropriate characteristics to defend successfully. Some of them are their great hunting ability in the air, brilliant eyesight, and a lot of strength. 

Conclusion

Drones strikes are surprisingly common around the world. They can be harmful to both the birds and drones.

Whether drone use has positive or negative impacts on birds in the long term is still left to be seen, but their use responsibly can help in minimizing their harmful impacts to the birds and also can save them from getting attacked.