Posted by: Sandy Steinman | December 5, 2017

Drones and Birds Don’t Mix

Drones and Birds often don’t mix. Flying drones by rooting birds harasses them and is harmful to their health. It kind disturb nesting behaviors, resting periods as well as chase them away from desired and sensitive habitat.

Audubon has an article on birds and drones at How Will Drones Affect Birds? | Audubon

Below is a list some recommendations made by Cindy Margulis, Executive Director of Golden 
Gate Audubon about the prohibition of drones in many parklands and what to do if you see someone flying a drone in a prohibited area.

Multiple steps are possible.  Drone flying within East Bay Regional 
Parklands is not allowed.  It’s also not allowed in National Parks.  
Other local parks might similarly have explicit regulations in place.

1)  Alert the relevant land management agency for that area.  IF it is 
occurring on EBRPD, call EBRPD POLICE line and report it. They may not 
have an officer who can respond as promptly as you like, but report it 
anyway, please.  IF it’s on City of Emeryville premises, also report 
it.  Since Emeryville Crescent is quite close to the Bay Bridge, I don’t 
think Homeland Security will be too amused by drones overflying that 
area, either….

2)  KNOW THIS:  Flying drones into roosting wildlife is harassment and 
thus it’s a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBYA).  If the 
law enforcement doesn’t recognize this, you can cite it to them.   You 
can and should report such a violation also via the anonymous CalTIP 
hotline.  However, IF you wish to be able to talk to a responding 
warden, be sure and leave your name and phone(s)/contact info so they 
can call you if the investigator has any follow-up questions for your 
witness account.  They keep your information confidential but if you 
don’t leave your contact details, they can’t reach you if they want more 
info or to tell you status of their response.  CalTip is conscientious 
about following up on these repiorts, but they have very few wardens for 
vast area of our region, so it may take some time (hours or even several 
days) to get a call back.  Do not be discouraged!

3)  DOCUMENT ! DOCUMENT !  DOCUMENT.!   Photograph the drone, the pilot, 
and license plate of their car if you see it.  Use your cell phone if 
you don’t have a regular birding camera to take pictures as best you can 
see, surreptitiously BEFORE confronting the pilot yourself.  Only then, 
consider confronting the drone pilot(s).  You probably shouldn’t tell 
them you just documented their violation of federal law, but you might 
wanna tell them as nicely as you can (even though it’s infuriating to 
witness if you care about birds) that drone flying is not allowed 
there.  You can further explain that it’s a serious menace for wildlife 
that has traveled thousands of miles and absolutely needs to roost or 
feed or whatever it is the birds were trying to do before the drone 
jockey(s) flushed them.  Keep in mind, we’re approaching holiday time 
and drones are unfortunately too affordable and often are holiday gifts 
to kids who really just might not know better. One should always try to 
inform rather than lead with your anger (however warranted).  Most 
humans respond better to civility than anger, especially from a stranger.

If the drone jock(s) are not amenable to ceasing the behavior, then just 
leave the scene (and perhaps document some more as you retreat!)  Then 
you’ll have evidence:  time, data, geolocation, license plate etc which 
you can share with the enforcement folks at the land management agency 
and with CalTIP CDFW warden to “prove” the problem is real.  You’ll be 
glad you’ve been a smart witness who documented it!   Having evidence 
makes them take the breach of  the MBTA even more seriously because 
there’s now proof of the violation.

We all care deeply about the birds but your own safety is paramount.  If 
you feel these people are a danger to you if you confront them, just get 
out of there.  Thanks for caring and doing your part to try to protect 
our wildlife.


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