For all of the pros and cons that drones have, add one tick to the “pro” side of the ledger. A recent study found that conducting bird surveys by drone produced results that were at least as accurate, if not more so, than other counting methods.

The Australian research team used drones to photograph populations of Crested TernsFrigatebirds, and Royal Penguins. They then studied the images in comparison with conventionally obtained accounts of the colonies conducted at the same time. The drone-obtained counts appeared to help researchers avoid missing birds, while enabling them to focus on specific areas of the colonies and to count the birds at their leisure.

Which may be all well and good. But drones are relatively low in cost and don’t need bathroom breaks. Human bird-colony counters, watch your backs—could you be someday outsourced?

Colony of Common Terns at Nickerson Beach above photographed by Corey



Written by Meredith Mann
The lowly Red-winged Blackbirds in suburban New York triggered Meredith Mann's interest in birds. Five years later, she's explored some of the the USA's coolest hotspots, from Plum Island in Massachusetts to the Magic Hedge in Chicago to the deserts of Fallon, Nevada. She recently migrated from the Windy City (where she proudly served as a Chicago Bird Collision Monitor, rescuing migrants from skyscrapers and sidewalks) to Philadelphia, where she plans to find new editing and writing gigs; keep up her cool-finds chronicle, Blog5B; and discover which cheesesteak really is the best. And she will accept any and all invitations to bird Cape May, NJ.