Part of the Bay Area News Group

Airplane/Bird Strikes Can Be Reduced

By Gary Bogue
Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 7:46 am in Airplane/bird strikes, Birds.

Mallard ducks have hit planes. Photo by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

I received a news release from Ducks Unlimited this morning that brings up some pretty interesting points about airplane/bird strikes.

Airport planners need to consult with wildlife managers BEFORE building facilities.

White pelicans. Photo by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Better planning and cooperation can reduce plane/bird strikes, says Dale Humburg, chief biologist for Ducks Unlimited. His remarks come after the Federal Aviation Administration made their database of bird strikes available to the public last week. The database shows that bird strikes were twice as common around larger airports.

“Bird strikes are due in part to airports being built in high-migration areas for spring and wintering waterfowl,” says Humburg. “Ducks Unlimited encourages communities to consider both migratory birds and resident waterfowl and bird populations when weighing options for new or expanded airfields.”

Ducks Unlimited was part of a coalition that prevented a U.S. Navy landing field in North Carolina from being built next to a National Wildlife Refuge, where aircraft flying over bird habitat have presented a danger to airmen and local communities. After studying the bird strike threat, the Pentagon revised its plans.

While the FAA’s database does not discriminate between migratory and resident bird populations, the increased presence of year-round food sources near airports and other development areas encourages birds to become permanent residents in an area and cease to migrate as other birds do. These resident birds can pose a threat to aircraft year-round, not just during peak migration times for other birds.

Bald eagle. Photo by henry Houghton, Danville, Calif.

“Birds and other wildlife are dependent on habitat that is increasingly being fragmented throughout the country,” Humburg explains. “Coordinating with wildlife experts on the abundance of birds in particular areas can help reduce these strikes in the future as well.”

Some other thoughts of my own:
The above suggestions are good for dealing with new airports to make sure they are not constructed in bird migration areas, or in areas where there are a lot of permanent bird residents.

The FAA should also put together a select team of bird experts from around the country to study the problem of airplanes and bird strikes and to try and come up with ways to lower these strikes at airports that already exist and are listed on the FAA’s database of bird strikes.

The database shows the FAA knows where the problems are. OK, now fix them.

Some airports may need to be moved. New and more effective and humane ways to redirect birds away from runways must be created. They can do this. /Gary

Osprey. Photo by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, Calif.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

3 Responses to “Airplane/Bird Strikes Can Be Reduced”

  1. Tim MacHugh; Says:

    The majority of airports in this country are already established. An airport cannot just be arbitrarily moved or located just “anywhere”. First, the location has to have a large area around it with no appreciable obstructions, hills, tall buildings, trees etc. These locations are often in industrial areas where other commerce exists that often attract birds. For example, in Livermore there is a water treatment plant that is located right off the approach ends of the two runways. This facility is a MAJOR contributor to the significant bird population that congregates on the airport property. These are large birds, gulls, geese, and occassionally some HUGE Herons! My point is this, as an active flight instructor flying daily, I see bird issues effecting the MAJORITY of the airports I fly into and most of the time there is an ancillary issue that surrounds why the birds are there! Often airports are near a coastline also because of usually low terrain that exists near the sea shores. It goes without saying that birds are going to be everywhere around these airports. The moral to my discussion is that no matter where you decide to put an airport, the critters will come, whether they’re birds, foxes, rabbits, coyotes…they seem to love the topography of airports!

  2. Gary Bogue Says:

    Interesting. That means they’re going to have to focus on ways to keep the birds away from flight paths … and alerting pilots in ways they will give them more time to steer clear of danger. As an active flight instructor, what are your thoughts on this?

  3. Noel Higa Says:

    I have been doing a lot of research on the issue of bird strikes and airport location. Your’s is the first article that makes the obvious recommendation — don’t put airports where there are likely to be large concentrations of birds. All the rest start with the assumption that the airport has the right to go where ever it wants to go. The birds are a nuisance or hazard that has to be eliminated.

    I work for an Indian tribe in western Washington State, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Kingston, Wa. We are working very hard to find a way to conserve the western shore of a small bay, Port Gamble Bay. The Tribe’s reservation is on the eastern shore and an old logging company owns the western shore. They are trying to get a seaplane terminal approved in the Bay. But the 4,000 acres on the western shore is home to many bald eagles and is identified as critical habitat. The bay itself supports an abundance of seabirds.

    I am looking for resources to help me fight this threat. Have you found any allies? Can you recommend anyone I can talk with who might be able to direct me to support documents?

    Thank you,
    Noel Higa
    Director of Economic Development
    Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe

Leave a Reply