Wedge-Tailed Eagles Keep Attacking A Mining Company's Drones

In an effort to fend off eagle attacks, Rick Steven painted his UAV. It didn't work. Rick Steven

After consulting raptor experts Steven has concluded that the eagles see the UAVs as rivals entering their airspace, rather than prey. “They let juveniles pass through their territory, but will attack something they see as sticking around,” Steven said. On their first flights the UAVs were unmolested, but it seems the eagles now see them as intruders and attack at every opportunity.

Steven has attempted to address the problem by camouflaging the UAVs in a variety of ways, however, he told IFLScience the only thing that seems to work is to fly early in the day before the thermals the eagles love to coast on have started. This interferes with his work as he gets better images when the Sun is overhead, but both to save money and to minimize annoyance to the eagles Steven has decided to stick with early morning flights. Larger drones seem unlikely to work, since Steven says he has heard reports of wedge-tailed eagles having a go at hang gliders.

It's easy to see the eagles as nature fighting back, Avatar-like, against the destructive effect of mining on the environment. If so, Steven argued, they have the wrong target. The St Ives mine lies predominantly within a salt lake that is dry much of the time, so only the mine's outer edges extend into territory with living inhabitants that could be disturbed.

Elsewhere in Australia things are different, with mines facing fierce opposition for their destruction of endangered species, and threats to surrounding farms and local water supplies. Proposed coal mines in the Galilee Basin (financially dependent on government subsidies) would be sufficient on their own to virtually destroy any chance of the planet maintaining a safe climate. Will these eagles, like Tolkein's, know when to show up?

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