VIDEO: Schmitz Park bald eagle disturbed by drone

(Unedited video – you can hear the eagle around 1 minute in)

Twice this evening, Rob – who sent the video – reports, that drone’s been bothering a bald eagle in Schmitz Park by his home. The video is from the second sighting, and arrived before we’d gotten a chance to post Rob’s first note:

I live next to Schmitz Park and around 6:30 pm tonight a drone appeared and started flying around one of the eagle nests at the western edge of the preserve. The drone made a few close passes to the nest. The adult eagle was audibly signaling as the drone approached (there may be eaglets in this nest). Twice the adult eagle took wing due to the drone, once flying at the drone, the second time it retreated away from the nest entirely until the drone left. I don’t know where the drone came from, but it departed in the direction of Alki Beach. If it is possible for you to mention something on the blog, perhaps with a reminder that this is both not cool and a Federal offense, that would be much appreciated.

While bald eagles are no longer considered endangered, they are protected by federal law, and the illegal behavior includes “disturb(ing)” them. Also, though rules regarding drones seem to change frequently, the Seattle Municipal Code says they are prohibited in Seattle city parks.

32 Replies to "VIDEO: Schmitz Park bald eagle disturbed by drone"

  • kumalavula July 2, 2017 (9:07 pm)

    not cool is an understatement!

    from over here in the north delridge/pigeon point area, i can see bald eagles floating around on the air currents above my deck and the only thing haraasing them are the crows!

    it’s very sad to hear someone thinks it’s ok to use technology to disturb wildlife. if this drone behavior persists, i hope appropriate law enforcement gets involved and makes an effort to figure out who so blatantly disregards the fauna we share our peninsula with.

  • cjboffoli July 2, 2017 (9:22 pm)

    For the record, the thirty year-old SMC 18.12.265 ordinance has to do with motorized model aircraft being prohibited from flights IN Seattle parks and UAVs (“drones”) have anecdotally been tacked on without an update to the language of the law or a vote.   It would be interesting to know if anyone has actually been cited for flying a UAV in a public park to date. Perhaps at some point the city will update the ordinance officially as consumer drones become more widespread.  Less clear is whether or not this ordinance would apply to the airspace far ABOVE Seattle parks as the spirit of the law seems as though it was intended to protect citizens from injury (and disturbance) from model planes being flown close to the ground in parks.  With all of that being said, there is a stronger case for this being a violation of federal law which is obviously much more serious.

    • WEFD July 3, 2017 (7:27 am)

      The law is super vague.  It states that model aircraft can not be flown in Parks.   I called the city and asked if that meant it could not be flown above parks or takeoff/land in parks.  They said “yes”.    They did not distinguish between the two.   The city has not jurisdiction over the airspace above your house, your business or any public land. They cannot prevent you from flying.  They can however prevent you from landing or taking off from a park. I take off from private property or the sidewalk and then I fly over a park.   Just because a citizen doesn’t like the idea of drone/uav, it shouldn’t be made illegal. I have a right to use the park as much as someone else. 

      Pestering wildlife or flying in a reckless manner is never ok.  Fly responsibly and it shouldn’t matter.   

      And i’m sure i’m going to get some hate over this issue, but like I said, I have a right to fly over any city park I want. The Republic of Seattle has no say over airspace.  That is the Federal Govt.’s job.  

      To use the argument of “what happens if the drone hits someone?”   There have more injuries in city parks from baseballs, frisbees, kites, etc (all flying objects) than any UAV.  Let’s ban everything that leaves the ground.  

      • cjboffoli July 3, 2017 (11:27 am)

        @WEFD  Yes, vague laws are never a good thing…tugging on the corner of the blanket to cover something other than what was intended.  Freedoms ought not to be so easily curtailed. That’s not to say the parks restriction is without common sense. I’m all for one being able to go and enjoy the peace and (sometimes) quiet of a public park without having to dodge buzzing engines and spinning propellers.  There are more than enough urban park discomforts already, like off-leash dogs and their ubiquitous excrement, plumes of cigarette smoke, boom box cars, etc. Personally, I take my own activity and its effects on others very seriously and always try to do everything in a manner that will not annoy or harm other people. Drone flying is no exception.  Not all drone operators are a menace to society, parks or wildlife.

  • DP July 2, 2017 (9:57 pm)

    Selfish scum. 

  • Lisa M July 2, 2017 (10:06 pm)

    PLEASE report this to the authorities immediately!!

  • roland July 2, 2017 (10:42 pm)

    CJ what happens when a drone falls on someone? is protecting people from that within the spirit of the law? or is it only about horizontal collisions?

    • cjboffoli July 3, 2017 (7:16 am)

      @Roland:  I’m personally not seeing an epidemic of UAVs falling out of the skies onto people over Seattle parks, or any parks in America despite about a million consumer UAVs in people’s hands.  But if that is a real concern for you then you should certainly take that up with your elected representatives. The concept of “protecting people” at all cost could be used in many ways to justify government overreach.  My issue is that a law from 1987 needs to be updated rather just applied without any work, debate, input from stakeholders, etc.

  • WTF July 2, 2017 (10:59 pm)

    You want to get good photos or vids of bald eagles, head to the landfill in Juneau, Alaska. NOT here. NOT ok. Just plain stupid.

  • WSRedux July 3, 2017 (6:42 am)

    Check social media (YouTube, Facebook, etc) for a recently posted drone video of a Bald Eagle & nest. I’m sure Schmitz Park could be identified as could the person posting it. As for the law, if the person who controlled the drone can be identified, they should be prosecuted. It’s up to the courts to decide whether or not drones are included under the current Seattle Municipal Code or state law. If not, the City Council needs to determine whether or not the Seattle Municipal Code needs to be rewritten. That the incident is in violation  of federal law is more clear cut.

  • psps July 3, 2017 (6:51 am)

    It’s a simple matter to geo-fence parks (or any area.) In fact, it’s already done in many places across the country. Doing so would make it impossible to do this.

  • Dave July 3, 2017 (7:41 am)

    My mom’s neighbor shot a blue heron with an arrow she called nine-one-one no one came I talked to the game officials when I took my hunter safety course they said there was really nothing that could be done they’re also protected as far as I know

  • Mike Swartz July 3, 2017 (7:49 am)

    There’s been a drone flying over Schmitz quite a few times the past couple years.  If you get a DSLR out and point at it, they turn and leave really fast.  They know what they’re doing is not appreciated.  Disturbing wildlife is a federal violation. Depending on how high they fly and how close to an airport, it’s also an FAA violation.  Drones / rc copters with cameras over neighborhoods is also creepy.  

    • cjboffoli July 3, 2017 (11:10 am)

      @Mike Swartz:  I don’t understand why you consider drones creepy.  Even with 4K video, flying 80-100′ overhead you really can’t see very much more detail than one can see on an average Google Maps view.   You certainly cannot identify faces.   Drone cameras are made with relatively wide lenses to take in the view, not to zoom into people’s windows.  And there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when you’re outside anyway.  

      To me it is certainly no more creepy that general aviation aircraft, news helicopters, etc. flying overhead, or the constant view of passing satellites.   Consider in an average day the number of cameras that are passively observing you everywhere.  The private cameras in stores, banks, at ATMs, by traffic cameras in intersections, the security cameras of private companies and citizens that are EVERYWHERE.  That’s not to mention all of the ways your activity is being tracked constantly by entities like Google and advertisers (or the government).  All of that is much more close up and personal than some hobbyist photographer trying to get a  unique shot of our picturesque peninsula from 100′ above the ground.
      • CAM July 3, 2017 (5:45 pm)

        CJ – Those other entities you mentioned that are allowed to fly and capture video or that capture video from the ground are all highly regulated in regards to how they are allowed to use that video and under what circumstances they can store it. The reality is that people do use drones with cameras to snoop on neighbors inside their houses and their yards, places that would technically be considered private property and where a person would have an expectation of privacy. Police aren’t even allowed to use technology to determine “hot” areas inside a house without prior authorization and justification. I’m not arguing that a public place is a private space but the examples you offered would tend to support the argument for increased regulation of individuals capturing video using a drone. 

        • cjboffoli July 3, 2017 (7:28 pm)

          @CAM:  Most the cameras in private control that I mentioned are completely unregulated. You are no doubt captured by multiple cameras every day and have no idea who is looking at that footage and recording your whereabouts, activity, consumer behavior, etc.  I can’t say I have any experience snooping on neighbors with my UAV.  But again, the wide angle lenses on these things would require you to be very low and close to windows and the sound of the drone would be very obvious.  That’s not to speak of the difficulty even being able to see into windows when it is bright outside and dark in the house.  Go to your window and look at any neighbor’s house right now to see what I mean.  (I also find that blinds and curtains can be very effective when I don’t want people looking through my windows into my living spaces).  Telephoto lenses and telescopes have been around for ages.  Both would be much more effective tools at spying on neighbors and it seems incongruous that they don’t concern you.

          Navigating UAVs over fences, trees, past wires  and other obstructions to get close to houses would be difficult, even for trained pilots in the daytime. Forget about at night.   These things are mostly flown at a good distance from people and houses. But you should also consider that  parts of  private property that can be observed from public sidewalks, rights of way, and presumably from the airspace above, don’t have the ironclad privacy protections you assume.  If I had my blinds open and someone from the public sidewalk wanted to photograph me inside my house, it would not be illegal.  Rude and creepy, yes, but not illegal.
          I just don’t see anything that justifies the tinfoil hat on this, again especially when you consider the much more significant privacy intrusions we all face on a daily basis by commercial and government entities.  With cannonballs being lobbed at us I don’t understand why one should get worked up over a couple of mosquitos.
          • CAM July 3, 2017 (9:49 pm)

            I don’t believe I implied that I’m not concerned about those other ways of being filmed and recorded but there are substantial numbers of laws on the books regulating those types of filming. It would not be legal for a person to film you inside your house from outside, no matter the circumstances, without your consent. That would also include the use of telescopes or telephoto lenses. Consent is not implied by not having blinds or curtains. Security cameras can only record a person’s own property and in most cases cannot record audio. Traffic camera footage must be used only with authorization and justification. The collection of online data requires your consent. You may willingly give it when you agree to accept cookies but it is still consent. Terms and conditions for using websites that store your information tell you how they will use the data and the websites are required to do so by law. Commercial filming requires notification that the area is being filmed. The vast majority of individuals collecting video or photography commercially must also keep detailed records about the information they collect. 

            I believe the increased concern people have about drones with cameras is that it is not easily identifiable who is operating the drone. Whether the images are high quality or not, people are using them to film people without their consent in private areas. It is probably not the majority but it happens. Laws are on the books to provide regulation and recourse in those situations where society is uncomfortable with a person’s behavior. We don’t have laws against assault because the majority of people assault people. We have them to be able to have recourse when the minority of people do engage in that behavior. 

          • Mike Swartz July 4, 2017 (6:44 am)


             It would not be legal for a person to film you inside your house from outside”  Sadly, this is not true.   If the person taking photos or video is ON your property, that’s different.  It’s no different than somebody looking into your window from the street with just their eyes.

            There’s a line of respect when it comes to video/photography and that line (I believe) is crossed often by many people.  UAV/Drone/RC Copters with cameras mounted, some actually carry full on professional DSLR’s with big fat heavy Canon L series lenses.  We don’t know who has what device up in the air, we don’t know what they’re using it for.  Lower end UAV/Drone/RC Copters might only have lower end wide angle lenses, but there are many that have far better capabilities.  The ones used for video shoots of Rally car races definitely have better abilities.

            For those interested in the regulation, rules and what the FAA is doing to make sure use of UAV’s is safe check out  Their will be a lot of UAV’s out tonight trying to capture firework shots.  Hopefully all UAV pilots will do so in a safe manner.

          • CAM July 4, 2017 (7:36 am)

            Someone looking into your house from the street with their eyes is also not really legal. We usually refer to that as voyeurism. ( Recording a police officer is entirely different because they do not have the right to refuse while in the course of their regular duties in a public space. I agree with you that we don’t have a good handle on what is being recorded with private drones and things seem to be on the honor system right now, which is of concern. It also concerns me that people who could potentially be recording video with the drones are unaware of the restrictions already in place on such filming. 

          • Mike Swartz July 4, 2017 (9:23 am)

            @cam voyeurism  is a different ballgame and just because somebody is photographing or videoing you inside your home from a public spot, doesn’t mean it’s voyeurism, oddly enough it’s protected under the 1st Amendment that they can legally do that too.  is a great resource that lays out the info in very basic terms that covers photography of public property, private property, public servants, etc.  However, if that person that took the photo or video used your likeness for commercial purposes or used it to defame you, you’d have a solid case to take them to court.  You’d need to be the one to press charges before anything is done about it.  So if you find a UAV video/photo of you on your private property or your private property and it’s used in an ad for Washington Tourism, you’d have a good case.  If you find a video posted on social media and you feel it has defamed you, you can take that to court and see where the law either protects you or not.  Photography and videography is heavily protected under the 1st Amendment.  Just like the 2nd Amendment, one individuals rights cannot infringe on the rights of another individual, so even with it being widely protected there is liability to not abuse those rights where you stomp on other protected rights.  Basically, people need to be polite and respectful of those around them.  Sadly, many people feel “it’s my right, I’ll do what I damn well please” without understanding the repercussions of abusing those rights.

    • Chrissy July 3, 2017 (4:01 pm)

      Mike’s right.  It IS creepy.

  • Wy July 3, 2017 (9:11 am)

    You’re generally legal below 400′, though most of West Seattle is in Boeing Field’s airspace (, so contacting them and advising them of your low level sUAS operation is required. Looking at the map, Schmitz park is just outside the range of Boeing. Seattle Parks (and most local govs) have no authority in the airspace arena.

    Use B4UFly or Airmap to advise yourself of the airspace in your area (or the actual VFR charts).


     Don’t disturb the wildlife, though.

    • cjboffoli July 3, 2017 (10:55 am)

      @WY:  The 400′ ceiling is an FAA guideline.  It is not the law and as such it is not technically illegal to fly higher, though I agree that is is a sensible guideline that responsible UAV operators ought to heed, especially in our often busy airspace.  According to my charts, much of the West Seattle peninsula (and certainly Schmitz park) is beyond the five mile exclusion zone for KBFI.  It is incorrect that consumer drone enthusiasts are “required” to advise ATC (or anyone else) of their flights.

  • Dave July 3, 2017 (9:14 am)

    Selfish idiot,  where do these low life come from

    • Erithan July 3, 2017 (11:50 am)

      Fitting, and awesome! Momma bird could get revenge and dinner for the family.

      So sad to see how callous and uncaring more and more people seem to be getting toward our wildlife and environment.=(

  • KBear July 3, 2017 (10:58 am)

    A drone is a miniature remote-controlled aircraft, and it has no business being in a public park, for many of the same reasons as model airplanes. We don’t need to update the 30-year-old law, we just need to enforce it.

  • T Rex July 3, 2017 (11:03 am)

    I despise anyone who would hurt or harass any animal just because they can. And who in the hell shoots a Great Blue Heron?

    That drone at Schmitz Park needs to have an unfortunate accident. 

  • BlairJ July 3, 2017 (11:52 am)

    These devices should be required to broadcast a unique ID, just like vehicles need to display license plate.

  • MDHK July 3, 2017 (1:55 pm)

    This eagle’s nest is right behind my house. There are 2 eaglets in the nest. We know who was flying the drone and have spoken to them. Hopefully this won’t be a problem again.

    • WSB July 3, 2017 (3:04 pm)

      Thank you for the update!

  • Gawdger July 5, 2017 (12:28 pm)

    In my opinion, this flight was in violation of
    FAA regulations, unless the operator obtained clearance from KBFI.  Schmitz
    Park is 9.15nm from the Seattle VORTAC on a 314 radial; KBFI tower could
    confirm whether it is within their airspace. My Sectional chart overlay
    in google earth shows that Schmitz Park
    is located just within the Class D airspace controlled by KBFI.  That airspace is from the ground level up to
    2500’.  I believe someone mentioned a
    hobbyist drone operator did not need to contact ATC, but that is untrue.  New regulations concerning commercial and
    hobbyist flights were released in 2016 and non-commercial drone flights within
    5 miles of an airport (Schmitz Park is 4.6 to 4.9mi from KBFI) requires the operator
    to obtain ATC approval.  {Advisory
    Circular No. 91-57A.6.c.5}   This is
    important for many reasons.  ATC may be
    holding manned aircraft in certain areas to allow for spacing and sequencing;
    this airspace is very congested.  ATC
    also needs to communicate to manned aircraft that there is a drone operating in
    a certain area.  There could also be a
    Temporary Flight Restriction for a VIP or POTUS; you don’t want to break that
    rule…trust me.  If I need to complete a
    commercial operation I then apply for a certificate of waiver from the FAA,
    then call KBFI and give them that approval before I fly.  If I’m just going out for fun, I just call
    the tower and give them my name, aircraft reg # and my approximate location
    within their airspace.  We then negotiate
    a safe operating height based on the area and manned aircraft traffic
    needs.  400’ is the max height per the
    FAR-AIM.  The only exceptions are at FAA
    approved AMA fields and when you operate over a structure.  Flying over a 100’ monopole or building then
    you can safely operate up to 500’ (400’ max + height of structure).  KBFI tower would have a log entry for this
    operator; if he/she did obtain approval. 

Sorry, comment time is over.