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How Airports Deal with Managing Birds for Flight Security

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(Images from Deposit Photos)

Airports are essential transportation hubs, facilitating the travel of millions of passengers every year. Part of ensuring the safety of these passengers involves managing the various hazards that can affect flights, with one of the critical concerns being the presence of birds around airports. Birds can pose a significant threat to aircraft, especially during takeoff and landing, with the highest risk of bird strikes. Airports worldwide have thus developed a range of strategies to mitigate this risk, balancing the need for safety with environmental considerations and wildlife preservation.

Airports employ diverse and often innovative strategies to manage bird and wildlife hazards. The goal is not only to deter birds from the vicinity of runways but also to manage the surrounding environment to make it less appealing for birds to settle or feed. Techniques vary from habitat management to active deterrence using technology or even trained wildlife experts. The results of these efforts are critical, as they ensure flight safety, protect wildlife, maintain operational efficiency for airlines, and assure passengers of a safe journey.

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Key Takeaways

  • Airports implement specialized strategies to mitigate the risks of bird strikes on aircraft.
  • Habitat management and technological solutions are used to deter birds from airport vicinities.
  • These efforts help ensure passenger safety, protect wildlife, and maintain airline operational efficiency.

Understanding Bird and Wildlife Hazards

Bird and wildlife hazards pose a significant threat to aircraft safety, requiring careful management, especially near runways and flight paths. This section explores the intersection of aviation and wildlife, focusing on bird strikes, a continuous concern for airport operations.

Patterns of Bird Strikes

Bird strikes usually occur during takeoff, landing, and ascent, which coincides with the birds' flight patterns. Bird migration seasons can dramatically increase the number of strikes due to the mass movement of waterfowl and other species. Studies show that certain times of day, such as dawn and dusk when birds are more active, also see increased incidents.

Species-Specific Threats

Different bird species pose different levels of threat to aircraft. Large birds such as geese and raptors can cause considerable damage due to their size and weight. While not as large, Gulls and other medium-sized birds often flock in large numbers, increasing the potential for multiple strikes. Understanding the behavior and populations of these species is critical for effective airport bird control.

Depositphotos_104020790_L(Images from Deposit Photos)

Impact on Aircraft Safety

Bird strikes can lead to critical damage to aircraft engines and airframes, jeopardizing the safety of passengers and crew. In some extreme cases, wildlife strikes have led to emergency landings. The FAA and civil aviation authorities worldwide have prioritized mitigating wildlife hazards through various forms of wildlife management and initiatives on how to control birds in airports, aiming to maintain the highest standards of flight safety.

Mitigating the Risk of Wildlife Hazards

In aviation safety, effective wildlife hazard management is integral to minimizing the risks posed by birds and other wildlife to aircraft. Airports adopt a multifaceted approach, incorporating habitat modification, the use of technology, and environmental stewardship to ensure the safety of flights.

Habitat and Environmental Management

Habitat management involves altering the airport environment to make it less attractive to wildlife. This can include measures such as grassland management to discourage flocking birds or the removal of wetlands that attract waterfowl. Conservation efforts aim to redirect wildlife to areas outside of airport perimeters, thus reducing the potential for wildlife strikes. By implementing these strategies, airports cooperate with wildlife biologists and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create an unwelcoming habitat for birds and other mammals that threaten airport operations.

Active and Passive Deterrent Measures

Airports deploy active and passive deterrent measures to prevent wildlife from settling on or near runways. Active measures may include using falconry, deploying air cannons, or broadcasting distress calls to scare birds away. At the same time, passive measures, such as installing spikes or using acoustic deterrents, create a persistent environment of discomfort for birds. These deterrents are part of a broad set of tools for airport bird control and significantly reduce the chance of bird strikes.

Advanced Detection and Control Systems

With technological advancements, airports now employ advanced radar systems and real-time data analytics to detect and manage wildlife hazards. Bird detection radar systems provide early warning by monitoring bird activities around the airport, allowing bird controllers to respond promptly to potential threats. Further, military and civilian airports may use laser systems (lasics) for non-lethal control, providing a high-tech solution to manage airspace safely. Integration of these technologies supports the overarching goal of wildlife risk management by ensuring a proactive approach to mitigating the risk of wildlife hazards.

Implementing the abovementioned strategies, including controlling birds in airports, significantly decreases the likelihood of wildlife-related flight interruptions and enhances protective measures against potential wildlife strikes.

Depositphotos_319999058_L(Images from Deposit Photos)


Airports employ a multifaceted approach to mitigate bird-related hazards. Strategies like habitat management, airport locality habitat review, and the use of technology contribute to a safer coexistence between aircraft operations and wildlife. These efforts are essential for protecting lives and preventing damage to aircraft. With continuous improvements in wildlife hazard management, the skies are made safer for both birds and passengers.

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