Best practice guidance to help minimise disturbance when flying your drone around birds.

Flying drones in the vicinity of birds can be highly disturbing for them. Even though a bird might not appear to be disturbed, it could be quite stressed. 

It is an offence under the Wildlife Act 1953 to disturb or harm protected birds. See below for guidelines on how you can minimise disturbance to birds when flying your drone. 

If you wish to fly a drone on public conservation land for any reason you must have authorisation from DOC. See commercial drone use or recreational drone use for more information.


To help minimise disturbance around birds follow this best practice guidance: 

Drone users should: 

  • take off at least 100 m from any shorebird or seabird
  • land their drone immediately if a bird circles or otherwise interacts with a drone in flight
  • land their drone at the first sight of any shorebird or seabird being disturbed.

Drones users should not:

  • fly closer than 50 m in any direction to protected shorebirds/seabirds on the shore, land or at sea
  • fly more than three drones within 300m of any shorebird or seabird.


If you have any questions or concerns about flying your drone near marine mammals contact the Christchurch Permissions Team.  

If you see or experience inappropriate drone use report it to your local DOC office or you can call our emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

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