Birds at Airports

Bird Attractants at Airports

Airports provide a wide variety of natural and human-made habitats that offer food, water, and cover. Many airports are located along migratory routes used by birds. One of the first steps in reducing bird hazards is to recognize these attractants. Usually, several attractants acting in combination are responsible for the presence of birds and their behavior at an airport.

Food
Birds require relatively large amounts of food. Most airports support an abundance and variety of foods such as seeds, berries, grass, insects, grubs, earthworms, small birds and small mammals. Seeds and berries are sought by several migratory and resident birds such as sparrows, finches, starlings, blackbirds, mourning doves, common pigeons and waterfowl. Geese are attracted to open expanses of grasses. Gulls, starlings, robins, and crows often feed on earthworms on the surface of the ground following a rain. Gulls are opportunistic feeders and frequently feed on grasshoppers and ground-nesting birds. Raptors are attracted to airports because of rodents, birds, and other small animals that harbored by tall, poorly maintained grass stands and borders.

Occasionally, food becomes available through careless waste disposal practices by restaurants and airline flight kitchens. Airport personnel have been known to feed birds during their lunch breaks. Many airports have inadequate garbage disposal systems that permit access to various food items. These are a favorite of several species of birds, especially gulls. Nearby landfills or sewage outlets may also provide food for birds and other wildlife.

Landfills are often located on or near airports because both are often built on publicly owned lands. In these circumstances, landfills contribute to bird strike hazards by providing food sources and loafing areas that attract and support thousands of gulls, starlings, pigeons, and other species. Generally, landfills are a major attraction for gulls, the most common bird involved in bird strikes. Waste paper, paper bags, and other litter blowing across the ground attract gulls, presumably because litter is mistaken for other gulls or for food. A gull that is attracted to litter decoys other gulls and encourages flocking.

Water
Birds of all types are drawn to open water for drinking, bathing, feeding, loafing, roosting, and protection. Rainy periods provide temporary water pools at many airports. Many airports have permanent bodies of water near or between runways for landscaping, flood control, or wastewater purposes. These permanent sources of water provide a variety of bird foods, including small fish, tadpoles, frogs, insect larvae, other invertebrates, and edible aquatic plants. Temporary and permanent waters, including ponds, borrow pits, sumps, swamps, and lakes, attract gulls, waterfowl, shorebirds, and marsh birds. Fresh water is especially attractive in coastal areas.

Cover
Birds need cover for resting, loafing, roosting, and nesting. Trees, brushy areas, weed patches, shrubs, and airport structures often provide suitable habitat to meet these requirements. Almost any area that is free from human disturbance may provide a suitable roosting site for one or more species of birds. Starlings, pigeons, house sparrows, and swallows often roost or nest in large numbers in airport buildings or nearby trees, shrubs, or hedges. Large concentrations of blackbirds and starlings are attracted to woody thickets for winter roosting cover. Gulls often find safety on or near runways of coastal airports when storms prevent their roosting at sea, on islands, or on coastal bays.

 

Migration

Many airports are located along traditional annual bird migration routes. Birds may suddenly appear in large flocks on or over an airport on their annual migration, even when the airport itself offers no particular attraction. Dates of migration vary by species and area. Flock size of a given species may vary widely from year to year depending on time of year, weather conditions, and many other factors.

 

Local Movements

Shorebirds, waterfowl, gulls, and other birds often make daily flights across airports from their feeding, roosting, nesting, and loafing areas. Airports near cities may experience early morning and late afternoon roosting or feeding flights of thousands of starlings.

 

Legal Status

Most bird species are protected by federal and state laws. The legal status of problem bird species at airports should be determined before control is attempted. Migratory birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 USC 703-711), while nonmigratory species are protected under state laws. Some species are further protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Pub. Law 93-205). These laws state make it unlawful to pursue, capture, take, kill, or possess migratory birds or endangered and threatened species, except as permitted by regulations adopted by the secretary of the interior. Permits to take nonendangered migratory birds are issued only when the birds are causing, or have the potential to cause, a serious threat to public health and safety and when nonlethal methods have failed to solve the problem. A state permit also may be required to control migratory and nonmigratory birds protected by the state.

 

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Bird strike hazards reoccur regularly at many airports and require constant attention. Before attempting to reduce bird hazards at an airport, it is important to assess the problem, identify contributing factors, and analyze the threat to aircraft and human safety. A wildlife hazard management plan should be implemented (and may be required by FAA) to make the airport unattractive to birds. Scaring or dispersing birds away from airports is usually difficult because birds are tenaciously attracted to available food, water, and cover. As long as these attractants exist, birds will be a problem.

In most situations, a wildlife biologist trained in bird hazard assessment should be selected to conduct a thorough ecological study of the airport and its vicinity. The study should determine what species of birds are involved, what attracts them, abundance and peak use periods and special hazard zones. It should also include control recommendations to reduce the frequency of bird occurrence at the airport.

 

Fun Facts

Birds have been a hazard to aircraft from the first powered flight. During the early days of aviation, when aircraft flew at slow speeds, birds had little difficulty in getting out of the way. Bird strikes were infrequent and damage was mainly confined to cracked windshields. The likelihood of the loss of aircraft and/or human lives was remote. With the development and introduction of jet aircraft, bird strikes became a serious hazard and costly problem. Faster speeds mean birds have less time to react to approaching aircraft. The force generated by bird impact with a fast-moving aircraft is tremendous. The newer turbine engines use light-weight, high-speed mechanical parts which are vulnerable to bird strike damage.

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The above information was adapted from PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE with permission of the editors, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, and Gary E. Larson (Cooperative Extension Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Nebraska-Lincoln, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Damage Control, Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee).

Our local offices offer Birds at Airports services in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin

Eco-Wise Pest Control



Local offices:

Akron-Canton(330) 823-1996Website
Albuquerque(505) 892-6519Website
Allentown(800) 633-2077Website
Ann Arbor(734) 449-5858Website
Central Maryland - Anne Arundel County(410) 990-1511Website
Northern Shenandoah - Ashburn(703) 728-1200Website
Atlanta(770) 663-6260Website
Austin(512) 833-5000Website
Baltimore(410) 848-2800Website
Birmingham(205) 991-0899Website
Boston(617) 975-0440Website
Boulder(303) 274-8837Website
Cape Cod(508) 760-0404Website
Cedar Rapids / Iowa City(319) 683-2560Website
Central Michigan - East(989) 513-4357Website
Central Missouri(573) 441-0060Website
Central South Carolina(803) 361-3647Website
Charleston(843) 345-7378Website
Charlotte(704) 531-2241Website
Chicago(847) 991-9909Website
Cincinnati(513) 521-6084Website
Cleveland(216) 642-3044Website
Colorado Springs(719) 473-4663Website
Columbus(614) 291-4400Website
Dayton(937) 854-5736Website
Daytona Beach(386) 734-2385Website
Delaware Valley(610) 385-4405Website
Denver(303) 274-8837Website
Des Moines(515) 287-0419Website
East Central Indiana(765) 282-7732Website
Elkhart/ South Bend(574) 825-1079Website
Central Maryland - Frederick(301) 662-0433Website
Northern Virginia - Fredericksburg(540) 657-1177Website
Ft. Collins(800) 274-8837Website
Ft. Lauderdale(954) 467-6067Website
Ft. Myers(239) 731-6255Website
Ft. Pierce / Treasure Coast(772) 462-0602Website
Ft. Wayne(260) 632-5106Website
Gainesville / Ocala(352) 372-3922Website
Grand Rapids(616) 245-4680Website
Greater Dallas(214) 453-8488Website
Greater Ft. Worth(817) 222-1101Website
Greater Hudson Valley(914) 432-5382Website
Greater Pittsburgh(412) 767-4067Website
Greater Rhode Island(401) 637-7991Website
Greater Waco(979) 846-7200Website
Greenville / Spartanburg(864) 859-3786Website
Gulf States(251) 443-3348Website
Central Maryland - Hagerstown(301) 790-1322Website
Hamilton County(317) 591-9744Website
Northern Virginia - Herndon/Fairfax(703) 709-8727Website
Houston East(713) 467-8000Website
Houston West(713) 334-4103Website
Central Maryland - Howard County(410) 740-5500Website
Huntsville(256) 462-1350Website
Indianapolis(317) 733-0340Website
JacksonMS(251) 443-3348Website
Jacksonville(904) 221-8633Website
Kansas City Metro - Kansas City, KS(913) 962-9200Website
Kansas City Metro - Kansas City, MO(816) 363-8727Website
Kaw Valley(785) 233-0966Website
Lancaster(717) 872-6575Website
Lansing(517) 482-5900Website
Lexington(859) 278-3747Website
Northern Virginia - Loudoun(703) 787-6909Website
Louisville(502) 966-8987Website
Madison(608) 273-1318Website
Maine - York County(603) 431-7452
Memphis(901) 647-4327Website
Miami(305) 258-3587Website
Milwaukee(414) 327-9949Website
Central Maryland - Montgomery(301) 434-0567Website
Montgomery(334) 265-6191Website
Nashville(615) 662-2235Website
New Hampshire(603) 424-7452Website
New Jersey(732) 349-8100Website
North Dallas(817) 222-1101Website
Northern Delaware(302) 685-3667Website
NW Washington(360) 988-2029Website
Oakland(925) 363-9336Website
Oklahoma City(405) 619-3000Website
Omaha(402) 339-2653Website
Orange County(858) 271-1112Website
Orlando(407) 295-7194Website
Ottawa(613) 978-8727Website
Panama City(850) 745-4080Website
Pensacola/Panhandle(800) 274-8837Website
Peoria(309) 672-1160Website
Phoenix(623) 322-4725Website
Piedmont Virginia(540) 246-3400Website
Pittsburgh NW(724) 775-5444Website
Portland(503) 244-0993Website
Central Maryland - Prince Georges(301) 249-4969Website
Northern Shenandoah - Purcellville(540) 338-2875Website
Racine(262) 792-9949Website
Raleigh-Durham(919) 382-0651Website
Reading(800) 633-2077Website
Reno - Tahoe(775) 322-5558Website
Richmond(804) 674-6621Website
Rochester Hills(586) 323-1010Website
Sacramento(530) 889-8406Website
Salt Lake City(801) 444-1235Website
San Antonio(210) 499-4225Website
San Diego County(858) 271-1112Website
San Jose(408) 226-6162Website
Santa Fe(505) 988-2035Website
Sarasota and Bradenton(941) 355-9511Website
Savannah(912) 898-5992Website
Seattle(206) 431-6833Website
Spokane(509) 443-6757Website
Springfield(417) 581-5899Website
St. Louis(314) 423-8801Website
Northern Shenandoah - Sterling(703) 787-6909Website
SW Michigan(269) 353-2874Website
SW Oakland Co. Mi.(248) 889-4977Website
Syracuse(315) 673-9419Website
Tallahassee(850) 745-4111Website
Tampa Bay Area - Tampa(813) 948-0870Website
Toledo(419) 539-9880Website
Toronto(416) 688-2600Website
Traverse City(231) 929-9321Website
Triad(336) 996-6364Website
Tulsa(918) 663-6060Website
Virginia Beach(757) 471-6234Website
Washington DC(202) 429-5699Website
West Palm Beach(561) 274-0224Website
Westland(734) 744-4745Website
Wheeling(304) 242-4020Website
Wichita(316) 267-2575Website
Wildlife Management Services(612) 926-9988Website
Wilmington(910) 279-1549Website
Northern Shenandoah - Winchester(540) 678-3776Website
Worcester(800) 564-9600Website

Wildlife Services

For your local Wildlife Control Expert, call 1-800-CRITTER.