When turkey vultures gather in large groups in urban areas, they can cause safety concerns due to their abundant fecal droppings and as hazards to air traffic. Wildlife Services (WS) biologists often manage vulture damage by modifying habitats to remove the things that attract them, such as perches or food sources. Vultures are also dispersed by pyrotechnics or effigies (PDF, 1.8 MB). Soon, a more high-tech solution may be available.
“From previous research we know unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones can disperse birds,” said Dr. Morgan Drabik-Hamshare, a research wildlife biologist with WS National Wildlife Research Center who works closely with the Federal Aviation Administration. “To see if vultures would react differently to a robotic falcon UAS that resembled a predator, we ran field trials to observe how birds reacted to three UAS types.”
Targeted vultures flushed (dispersed) in 63 percent of the UAS trials. The likelihood of a vulture flushing was influenced by UAS type and angle of approach. Vultures were 2½ times more likely to flush when approached directly versus overhead. Additionally, vultures were twice as likely to flush when approached by a fixed-wing UAS versus the robotic falcon UAS; however, fewer vultures remained after multirotor UAS approaches than in robotic falcon UAS trials.
“Given that the multirotor UAS can take-off and land vertically and access obstructed areas, we recommend that future research focus on enhancing its effectiveness by testing more approach patterns and adding select, onboard lighting to make it more visible to vultures,” concludes Drabik-Hamshare.
For more information, please see: www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-01098-5