Drones: A New Tool for Bird Research and Conservation
October 2 @ 19:30 - 21:00
A Presentation by Dr. David M. Bird
Monday, October 2, 7:30 p.m. Kensington Presbyterian Church 6225 Godfrey Ave., NDG
Small unmanned vehicle systems (UVS) — aka drones — are gaining in popularity among wildlife biologists and conservation managers all over the world. They are using them for conducting population surveys; tracking radio-tagged animals; sensing and observing animals in sequestered or dangerous places; mapping and monitoring wild habitats; and deterring poachers. All these uses naturally include avian species.
Researchers have experimented with using a fixed-wing drone to monitor the abundance of nesting Common Terns in a colony in New Brunswick; to count seabirds in colonies in Newfoundland and the Arctic; to map breeding habitat of threatened Least Bitterns near Baie- du-Febvre, Quebec; to detect heat signatures from bird nests; to radio-track songbirds in Montmorency, Quebec, and to disperse nuisance birds such as starlings from vineyards and blueberry crops in British Columbia. They also employed a rotary drone to record the nest contents of several raptors nesting in Saskatchewan and Montana, and monitor their respective behavioural responses.
They are now collaborating on this application with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to produce a White Paper on the safe use of drones to census raptor nests. Compared to using manned light airplanes or helicopters, flying drones is cheaper, greener, less obtrusive, and much safer. The number one source of mortality for wildlife biologists is dying in a plane or helicopter crash!
However, drone technology is still in its infancy. Limitations exist in the form of regulations, costs, and in the technology itself, e.g. weather constraints, terrain, piloting skills, etc. This presentation summarizes the latest research and discusses the positive and negative sides of using drones for avian research and management, tourism, and public education.
David M. Bird has worked with UAVs for more than 10 years, counting water birds and mapping their habitat use; surveying hawk and eagle nests dispersing nuisance birds; tracking birds wearing transmitters; and detecting caribou in Labrador. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems and serves as a board member of Unmanned Systems Canada. He has given several keynote/plenary talks and organized symposia, workshops, and panel discussions on UAVs and wildlife studies at conferences worldwide.
He is Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Biology and the former Director of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre at McGill University. As a past president of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists and the Raptor Research Foundation, a Director with Bird Studies Canada, a Fellow of both the American Ornithologists’ Union and the International Ornithological Union, David Bird has received several awards for his conservation and public education efforts, including the Doris Huestis Spiers Award for outstanding contributions to Canadian ornithology in August 2017.
He is a regular columnist for both Bird Watcher’s Digest and Canadian Wildlife magazines,the author of several books and almost 200 peer- reviewed scientific publications. He is the consultant editor of DK’s Birds of Canada, Birds of Eastern Canada, Birds of Western Canada, Pocket Birds of Canada, and in September 2017, the second edition of Birds of Canada. The book will be available during his presentation.