PROSPECT PARK — While drones are changing the way the world shops, fights wars and responds to disasters, they’re also shaking up some notable locals: Prospect Park's resident hawks.
Two of the park’s red-tailed hawks took off after a drone manned by a group of men illegally flying the gadget in the park last week, according to a longtime neighborhood birdwatcher.
Rob Bate, three-year president of the Brooklyn Bird Club and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens resident, said he watched the pilots send the drone above the Nethermead — a large meadow in the center of the park — last Wednesday. Soon afterwards, the gadget was set upon by a pair of hawks.
Bate said the birds got into a “stoop” position, or “attack-mode,” with their wings folded, which he captured in a photograph of the Nov. 18 incident he shared with DNAinfo New York.
“They were really upset,” he said. “They see a drone in the air, they take it as a competitive predator, like another hawk that’s coming into their territory. And [the drone] doesn't behave right and it doesn’t go away and they get more excited. And they were going after it.”
Bate said the owners of the drone saw what was going on and landed the device before any harm could come to the hawks, Bate said.
Flying any unmanned aircraft is illegal in all Brooklyn parks except Calvert Vaux Park and Marine Park, according to the Prospect Park Alliance and the city Department of Parks.
Drone pilots have had many not-so-peaceful encounters with hawks and large birds all over the world, including in Cambridge, Massachusetts when a hawk took out a quadcopter last fall; Melbourne, Australia where an eagle disabled a drone; San Diego and New Zealand.
Bate said he approached the drone pilots to explain the potential dangers they could do to the hawks.
The birds “could hurt themselves," he explained, adding, "They’re used to going after things with feathers and flesh and bones, rather than hard metal and cutting blades.”
Bate hopes any drone pilot considering violating the ban on the aircraft in Prospect Park will first consider the fate of the area's many birds — including several nested pairs of red-tailed hawks — before taking to the sky.
The fall season in particular is a busy time for birds in the park, officials said. Prospect Park is designated as an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society, according to the Prospect Park Alliance, meaning it’s a key stop for migrating birds during the migration season and year-round.
If parkgoers see a drone being flown in the park, they are encouraged to report it to Brooklyn Parks Enforcement Patrol office at (718) 437-1350 or the NYPD, the Alliance said.
Bate hopes more resources will be dedicated to enforcing the rule against drones in the park, but for now, he takes it upon himself to speak with drone pilots — many of whom don’t take the bird problem so seriously.
“I don’t think they’re malicious people, but they kind of don’t get it either,” he said.