Bird Control at Airports

No two airports are exactly alike in regard to their bird control problems. Each airfield isattractive to birds for a different variety of reasons, and the reasons vary with the species of birdsinvolved and the time of year. Birds can be attracted to airports for food (e.g., earthworms,grasshoppers, and seeds), water, and shelter; and because the airports provide suitable nestinghabitat or woods for overnight roosting. Each species of bird has its own behaviours, habitatpreferences, preferred foods, loafing and roosting habits, flocking tendencies, and times ofseasonal occurrence. As well, features that are nearby or even at some distance from airfields cancreate different bird hazards to aircraft safety at each airport. For example, flightlines of birdsbetween a nighttime roosting area and a daytime feeding area such as a landfill, can create serioushazards if the airport lies between these areas. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics ofbirds and requirements of bird control that are common to most airports.

Airports generally are large, open areas. Consequently, products and techniques that areeffective over large areas are best, generally speaking. Birds must be kept off the airfieldaltogether; moving birds to another part of the airfield usually is not a solution. Not all species ofbirds are attracted to these open habitats, and not all those that are attracted create hazards toaircraft safety. Typical "problem" groups are gulls, waterfowl (ducks and geese), rock doves,blackbirds, starlings, crows, hawks, eagles, owls, and snow buntings. Products and techniquesthat are effective on these groups can thus often address most of the bird control problems at anairport. Airports may require year-round, and sometimes round-the-clock, control measures.Therefore, bird control at airports requires techniques that achieve long-term deterrence of birdsfrom the airfield and environs. It is not a situation where techniques that achieve short-termresults are acceptable, although short-term effectiveness is required at times. In other words,habituation is of much greater concern at airports, where long-term effectiveness is essential, thanin other situations (such as agriculture) where dispersing/deterring birds for a few days or weeks(e.g., before harvest) is sufficient (and the issue of habituation of less concern). Occasionally,even nocturnal control is necessary. Where overflights of birds are a problem, control programsbeyond the airport are required.

The basis of any successful airport bird control program is habitat control - making theairfield less attractive to birds (or at least the most problematic species) addresses thefundamental source of the problem. Of course, because each species or group of birds has its ownhabitat preferences, modifying what is attractive to one species may well provide betterconditions for another. Nonetheless, the modification of large areas of suitable habitat and theremoval of particularly attractive features, can greatly reduce the extent of active control required.Trying to clear an entire airfield of birds solely with active control measures is a formidable task.Habitat modification can also be effective by limiting the areas of an airfield that attract birds,and thus active control can be focussed more effectively in these restricted areas.

There is, as yet, no single "silver bullet" for airport bird control. It is unlikely that there willever be just one magic control method. Birds are very adaptable and can and do habituate to anycontrol method used over the long term. The best control programs therefore employ a variety ofproducts and techniques. Aside from these, however, management commitment is ultimately thedriving force determining the success of an airport bird control program. This is reflected in atrained and motivated field staff, and an adequate supply of appropriate and well-maintainedcontrol products.