So you’re a bird just minding your own business—feeding, nest-building, mating, that kind of thing. You’ve adapted fairly well to the presence of the odd tall creatures with two legs who can’t fly. And now a bunch of them are staring intently at you. No biggie.
But wait, what’s that? Out of the corner of your eye, something menacing and not quite organic appears. It flies without flapping wings, and emits some kind of sick buzzing noise. Do you freak out, or do you just keep doing your bird stuff?
That’s what a group of French scientists recently examined—how birds react to drones, those remote-control robots increasingly flocking to our skies. They found that, for the most part, the Mallards, wild Flamingos, and Common Greenshanks (like the one Redgannet photographed above) studied were mostly unperturbed by the drones. Varying the color and speed didn’t seem to bother the birds in the least.
The one factor that did make a difference? Angle of approach. Specifically, when a drone approached from 90°—that is, from directly above, as a predator might—birds were more likely to get the heck away from it.
The scientists hope this research will help guide ethical drone use around birds. (After all, getting a true bird’s-eye view of avians affords all kinds of new research opportunities.) The moral of the story is, if you could keep your drone from dropping vertically down onto unsuspecting birds, they would really appreciate it, k thx bye!