Drones pose new risk to vulnerable sea hawks

AUTHORITIES are pleading with drone owners to be mindful of where they fly with the increasingly popular devices posing a new risk to vulnerable sea hawks across the Tweed and on the Gold Coast.

Osprey spend the months between May and October nesting and raising their young but unfortunately, the breeding season is often difficult and placed under threat by a number of factors.

Along with constantly protecting their nests, eggs and chicks from extreme weather and larger predatory birds, the threatened coastal species is now being distracted by drones.


Tweed Heads Threatened Species Project Officer Tanya Fountain said Osprey perceive the unmanned aircraft as predators and are kept busy trying to defend their nests from the noisy devices.

“If a parent bird is preoccupied with defending their nest from a drone, it could result in neglect of vulnerable eggs and chicks, reducing breeding success. Birds that attack drones could also be injured by moving blades,” Ms Fountain said.

“Responsible use of drones can go a long way to minimising any negative impacts to nesting Ospreys.”

Ms Fountain said the construction and placement of artificial nesting platforms were the only reason ospreys continue to breed across the Tweed.

On the Gold Coast, there are 14 historic nesting sites, including at Southport, Currumbin, Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach Waters, Coolangatta and Coomera.

They can be found close to water in the forks of large trees, up to 30m above the ground, on cliff faces, and on top of man-made structures, such as communication towers and power poles.

The locations of known osprey nesting sites across the Gold Coast | Source: Department of Environment and Science

Osprey use the same nest year after year and incubate their eggs from May before spending the next five months feeding and caring for their young.

Ms Fountain said it was vital to minimise disturbance to nesting pairs during this time.

Just 60 percent of juvenile ospreys are said to survive to adulthood, with females laying only 2-3 eggs each year.

Recreational drone users are urged to always keep their aircraft away from wildlife and obey the Civil Aviation Safety Authorities recreational drone safety rules.

Pilots are also reminded that the Osprey is listed as a threatened species under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Under this Act, it is an offence to harm or attempt to harm a threatened species.

“Ospreys are listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW largely due to the loss of natural nesting sites – being big old trees along the coast,” Ms Fountain said.