Morgan B. Pfeiffer http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1079-5295
Bradley F. Blackwell http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4664-8227
Date of this Version
Wildlife Society Bulletin 2023;47:e1423.
Ring‐billed (Larus delawarensis) and herring (L. argentatus) gulls are numerous and widespread in North America. These gulls rank among the top 9 species for risk of bird‐aircraft collisions (hereafter strikes). The ubiquitous presence of gulls in urban coastal environments, including rooftop nesting behavior, are factors impacting strike risk. Our purpose was to assess gull response to a small uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) in hazing flights at night during the nest‐building phase. We hypothesized that nocturnal UAS operation, like nocturnal predator disturbance, might reduce gull numbers and, thus, strike risk to aircraft. In spring 2021, we conducted UAS treatments over target roofs at least once every hour from 2000 until 0200, weather permitting, for 15 min and over a 14‐day period for each site. The UAS flew directly above (~4 m) and then descended (~4 m/s) within 1m of loafing gulls. No gulls interacted with the UAS and most flushed within 6 minutes. Generally, the first treatment of a night dispersed all gulls (min–max = 1–130 individuals) from the target roof for an extended period. Our operations were often grounded because of weather and our gull response data were limited because of few individuals present. We discuss our observations with particular attention to feasibility and possible implications such as shifting birds to other sites which, potentially, could be counterproductive for management.
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