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 avoid disturbing or harassing shorebirds or seabirds on land, the shore or at sea, you should:

  • take off at least 100 m from any bird
  • fly no closer than 50 m in any direction to shorebirds or seabirds
  • abandon contact at the first sign of any bird being disturbed
  • land your drone at a safe distance away if a bird circles or otherwise interacts with a drone in flight 
  • not fly within 300 m of any shorebird or seabird if there are already three drones present
  • keep at least 50 m from any other drone.


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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