Chapter 8 — Solutions — The Airport & Surroundings

“It is the policy of Transport Canada to regard all wildlife on airports as potential hazards to airport and aircraft safety, and to site, construct, maintain, and operate the airport and its facilities in a manner that will minimize these hazards.”


As one might expect, activities to reduce exposure, probability and severity of wildlife strikes to aircraft are primarily undertaken at and in the vicinities of airports, where 90 percent of wildlife strikes occur. These wildlife-management efforts are focused on altering ecological processes in airport environments.

Firmly based in science, airport wildlife-management employs a variety of tools and techniques to discourage and disperse animals from the vicinity of aircraft operations. These efforts must be continually refined and updated, as no single method or product is effective over the whole range of species posing direct and indirect risks.

For detailed tactical guidance in undertaking airport-wildlife management, the authors refer you to Transport Canada’s Wildlife Control Procedures Manual. This document examines in greater detail many of the elements discussed in this chapter.

Roles and responsibilities

The primary responsibility of the airport operator is to maintain airport safety— to develop and implement policies and programs that address problems associated with wildlife strikes.

Site-specific wildlife-management solutions

When it comes to wildlife risks, no two airports are alike; no two wildlife-management programs are alike either. Each must be site-specific, developed with input from biologists, ecologists, wildlife-management experts, regulatory bodies, airport operators and other agencies that can add value to a program. While wildlife-management efforts must focus on aircraft-movement areas and approach and departure paths regardless of an airport’s size, effective programs encompass the entire airport, including buildings and structures.

At small airports, where aircraft movements are few and resources scarce, effective wildlife-management programs may involve simple runway bird-dispersal operations undertaken prior to takeoffs and landings. At large airports, however, multiple solutions are required to address the range of wildlife-management considerations; prioritization is essential, identifying species that pose the greatest hazards to aircraft operations.

Passive and active wildlife management

Effective airport wildlife-management relies on a balanced, systematic and sciencedriven integration of passive and active initiatives.

Passive initiatives are commonly referred to as the habitat-management components of wildlife-management programs, involving control of those airport features that attract wildlife. While these features can be reduced and modified—providing the most cost-effective means of limiting long-term wildlife-associated risks— they cannot be eliminated; animals will always be attracted to some feature at an airport, perhaps on a seasonal basis—during migratory periods, for example.

For this reason, active measures are equally important, including scaring and harassing wildlife to disperse them immediately from an area.

Passive and active initiatives work hand in hand to ensure effective wildlife management. For example, modifying large areas of suitable wildlife habitat through removal of ponds and perches will reduce the need for active management. Conversely, clearing runways of birds solely through active management techniques can be counterproductive if, for instance, passive measures have not reduced availability of food, water and shelter at other parts of the airport.

Airport wildlife management: land-use practices near airports

Airport boundaries are meaningless to wildlife, so effective airport wildlife-management programs rely on:

  • knowledge of land-use activities adjacent to an airport, and
  • support and participation of those who manage wildlife-attracting operations adjacent to the airport.

Past experiences have shown that on-airport control measures can be overwhelmed by large increases in gull numbers drawn to airport-area facilities such as landfills. The problem is not only one of numbers, it’s also one of movement—bird-flight paths to and from these off-airport sites can intersect paths of arriving and departing aircraft. Recent studies of gull movements to and from feeding sites such as landfills have shown that gulls typically occupy airspace from 100 to 2,000 ft AGL. Approaching jet aircraft, using a normal three-degree glide slope, occupy this same space for a distance of more than eight miles from the end of a runway.


Table 8.1 Common Hazardous North American Species for which Habitat Management Should be Considered a Primary Control Measure

Passive wildlife management: habitat management

The large open spaces typical of airports will always attract wildlife; short of creating sterile environments, it is impossible to control all species through habitat management. At the same time, modifying one habitat can create a new attractant for other species. Passive wildlife management is a delicate balancing act, and its efforts must be continually evaluated and updated.

There is, however, nothing passive about the costs of these measures—they can be high, and difficult for an airport operator to justify. For this reason, use of habitat management as a primary control measure requires careful planning and study.

The goals of habitat management

Before implementing habitat-management measures, consider carefully whether proposed modifications will achieve their goals, which should include:

  • eliminating or significantly reducing numbers of problem species within an airport environment;
  • not creating new attractions for species that pose either an equal or greater risk to aircraft safety; and
  • reasonable implementation and maintenance costs that ensure a new habitat will remain unattractive to problem species for an extended time period.
Food Source
Seed Producing Grasses or Weeds
Agricultural Crops
(grains, forage, legumes, etc.)
Grass Fields
Drainage Ditches
Marsh and Swamps
Scrub Lands
Riparian Vegetation
Nest Trees
Raptor Perches
Open Bodies of Water
Retention Ponds
Temporary Ponding of Water
Buildings (nest & roost sites)
Shelter & Safe Areas
Abandoned Runways
Abandoned Taxiways
Brush/Wooded Areas
Roof Tops
Short-grass Fields

Table 8.2 Airport Wildlife that may be Managed through Habitat Modifications

Target species

Habitat modification is best used against species that present the greatest hazards to aircraft—species that:

  • are large in size, having the greatest potential to cause an accident when struck;
  • typically gather in large numbers, resulting in a higher probability of frequent or multiple strikes, and increasing the potential severity of a strike; and
  • display a particular behaviour that increases strike probability, such as the propensity for gulls to loaf on runways, attracted to the warm pavement.

Table 8.1 lists wildlife species that meet these criteria.

Acquiring knowledge of airport-wildlife habitats

Effective habitat management stems from the collection of accurate and comprehensive data concerning wildlife attractants in airport environments. In some cases, these attractants will be obvious, and so well known to airport staff that little study is required; other cases may demand exhaustive long-term ecological study to identify specific habitat features that attract hazardous species.

Regardless of scope—and prior to implementation—habitat management efforts should include the following activities:

  • review wildlife-strike data to identify known problem species;
  • assess the probability, exposure and potential severity of incidents involving commonly struck birds and mammals;
  • identify attractants such as food, water and shelter, and location of roosting, loafing and perching sites (Table 8.2 provides a list of common wildlife attractants which can be managed through habitat modification);
  • obtain and review information from other relevant airport studies and experiences;
  • assess seasonal presence of hazardous species (are they year-round residents or present only at specific times of the year?); and
  • determine whether the habitat can be modified or eliminated.
Food Source
Management Technique
•Keep cropland more than 1,200 feet away from runways
•Re-schedule cultivating and harvesting practices that attract flocks of birds
•Sweep worms off runways following heavy rains
•Prevent worms from crawling onto the tarmac
•Kill worms by treating the grass strips beside the runways
•Apply worm repellent along the edge of the runway
Garbage Dumps
•Locate dumps at least 8 km from airport reference points
Grass Fields
•Keep grass length at 10 to 15 cm (average length in Canada) to reduce loafing and feeding activity (please note that site-specific studies are required in order to determine optimum grass length)
•Maintain minimum-width short-grass aprons along runways
•Keep grass areas free of broad-leaf weeds, which attract some mammal species and provide a food source
•Spray insecticides and herbicides beside runways to eliminate seeds and insects

Table 8.3 (a) Habitat Management: Food Sources

Common habitat-management techniques

The following sections provide a brief overview of habitat-management techniques used over the past twenty years at airports across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. While each airport presents unique habitat-management challenges, these practices have generally proven effective when employed as part of a comprehensive wildlife-management plan.

Food-source habitat management

While highly effective, initiatives to reduce problem-species’ food sources are sometimes overlooked for a variety of reasons:

  • airports do not have equipment required to apply chemical deterrents;
  • airports are reluctant to use chemicals due to cost and potential environmental harm—real or perceived;
  • airports do not have easy access to specialized equipment required for large-scale cutting or removal of vegetation;
  • the number of food sources at airports is considered insurmountable;
  • staff are not aware that a specific food source is primarily responsible for attracting hazardous wildlife; and
  • the aesthetic appeal of certain vegetation mosaics that have become traditional fixtures at many airports.

As far as the costs of these initiatives are concerned, they are far outweighed by savings that result from comprehensive wildlife-hazard reductions.

Table 8.3 (a) summarizes common habitat-management techniques used to control food sources.

Chemical control of food sources

Chemical controls must be directed only at specific food sources—to limit expenditures and minimize both the effects on non-target species and potential environmental impact. Chemical control may involve one or more of the following:

  • spraying the first 30 to 40 meters of grass along the runway several times per year (Benomyl and Tersan have proven effective in the control of earthworms);
  • applying rodenticides in early spring—prior to rodents’ breeding cycles—to control small-mammal populations that provide food sources for raptors;
  • applying insecticides throughout the year, including treatments aimed at specific species during infestation periods.

Physical methods to control food sources

Physical methods to control or remove food sources may include:

  • cutting fields and vegetation to prevent seed-head development and fruit production. Cutting ground vegetation in the fall can ensure winter food sources are limited or eliminated. Similarly, trimming and removing shrubs and trees can reduce browse for ungulates, as well as berries and fruits for birds and other mammals.
  • denying wildlife access to edible waste through use of well-sealed garbage receptacles. Where possible, garbage containers should be stored indoors or housed in specially designed outdoor facilities that prevent access by wildlife. Spilled waste at garbage loading areas and elsewhere should be cleaned promptly and regularly.

Leasing of airport lands for agriculture

Leases involving airside and off-airside agricultural land must be well defined and strictly monitored and controlled, ensuring the airport operator maintains the ability to manage potential wildlife hazards. Many agricultural crops provide attractive food sources; farming activities such as plowing and harvesting often create abundant, easily accessed food. Prior to leasing, it is advisable to analyze the risk posed by these activities; the revenue they generate may be outweighed by additional wildlifemanagement costs they incur.

Safe Areas
Management Technique
•Remove all undergrowth
•Thin treetops to make them less attractive as roosting sites
•Inspect trees frequently for colonies of nesting birds
Nest Trees
•Cut back at least 150 m from the runway or taxiway center line
Trees Buildings
•Eliminate holes, crevices, roosting ledges and general access to buildings
•Block, cover and seal all holes, crevices and drains by using screening, concrete or brickwork
•Apply special materials to perches to keep birds away
•Slope ledges to eliminate roosting and nesting sites by using boards, plastic sheeting and concrete
•Perform routine inspections of all airside buildings and structures
•Remove old airside buildings that are no longer in use
•Monitor trees around the fenced perimeter and remove if required
•Remove all large single trees as well as small clumps of trees on airside lands
Aprons & Taxiways
•Carry out inspections and remove all materials that attract birds
•Put spikes on runway lights, approach lights, taxiway and apron lights to eliminate perching and nesting sites
•Spray insecticides and herbicides beside runways to eliminate seeds and insects
•Keep runways and taxiways clean

Table 8.3 (b) Habitat Management: Shelter & Safe Areas

The specific terms of lease agreements are dependent on factors such as local climate, soil conditions, cropping patterns and market values—factors that vary significantly from airport to airport. In light of this, it is impractical to provide regulations on acceptability of specific crops. It is the responsibility of the airport operator to ensure that sufficient data is available to make an informed decision regarding agricultural use of airport land.

Lease agreements should contain clauses that:

  • specify types of crops grown;
  • ensure that the crops selected are those least attractive to wildlife;
  • specify scheduling of farming activities such as plowing, planting and harvesting to ensure that the potential for attracting wildlife is reduced;
  • clearly identify harvesting methods that may be used; and
  • ensure that leases or licences include an escape clause that oblige the farmer to remove or plow under crops if wildlife hazards arise.


The removal of airport vegetation—such as tree stands—eliminates roosting and nesting sites for birds, as well as shelter for mammals such as deer.

Shelter-habitat management

Within the airport environment, shelter habitat can be:

  • natural, including brush and woodlots, hedgerows, perch trees; and
  • human, including buildings, hangars, jetways, parking garages, aircraft movement areas, signs and equipment.

Management techniques involve either removing shelter habitats from airports or altering these domains so they no longer appeal to wildlife. In most cases, wildlife shelter—once identified—can be effectively managed through little cost and effort.

Natural wildlife shelter—such as small wood lots, hedgerows and trees used for perching and roosting—should be eliminated or modified to be less inviting; this may be as simple as removing wood-lot underbrush.

Features such as abandoned buildings used by nesting birds and mammals should be demolished; abandoned taxiways and aprons—ideal loafing areas for gulls—should be scarified and revegetated.

Table 8.3 (b) summarizes techniques for removing and modifying the shelter habitats of birds and mammals.

Water-habitat management

Many bird species—particularly waterfowl and shorebirds—are attracted to water, not only to drink, but also to seek shelter and nesting sites, and a variety of available foods. Airport water habitats vary from simple ditches and ponds to wetlands, creeks, rivers and lakes. Areas where water collects for short periods of time—after rainstorms or during spring snowmelt—can attract large numbers of birds. As a general rule, all standing water at airports should be removed or modified.

Water Habitat
Management Technique
Open Drainage/
Increase the slope of banks to eliminate shelter areas

Drain ditch bottoms to eliminate standing water used by birds and mammals
Water Bodies
Use herbicides and clearing techniques to limit vegetation (cattails, bushes) on the banks of all water bodies

Set up barriers to prevent access to water using material such as nylon mesh and wires

Table 8.3 (c) Habitat Management: Water Habitats

Federal, provincial and state laws that protect water-habitat areas underline the importance of co-operative partnerships between airport operators and government agencies. Significant habitat modifications are not always possible; regulatory constraints to wetland- and fish-habitat manipulation are extensive. In cases where removal or manipulation of wetlands is the only option, redress measures—such as off-site wetland or fish-habitat compensation projects—may have to be negotiated between an airport and government agencies. If removal of habitats is not possible, the management plan should allow for minimum modifications to make the areas less attractive to problem species.

Water-habitat management requires long-term permanent solutions as well as shortterm measures that deal with seasonal and temporary water sources. Table 8.3 (c) provides a summary of water habitats and how they may be managed.

Large-scale, permanent measures such as those presented below are often costly due to their complexity. For this reason, airport operators may consider including these projects as long-term goals of their wildlife-management plans.

  • Ineffective ditching systems that create standing water should either be re-aligned or replaced with buried drain pipes.
  • Airside ponds and natural-ponding areas should be eliminated through infilling, grading and improving drainage.
  • Storm-water ponds should be located in safe areas and modified so as not to attract wildlife. In recent years, a number of airports in North America have replaced typical storm-water ponds with artificial, subsurface-flow wetlands. These installations eliminate surface water and reduce wildlife habitat.

Short-term management measures either create unappealing water habitats or alter habitats to exclude specific problem species. Regular cleaning and removal of aquatic vegetation will make ditches less attractive; ensuring these sites have deep, steep banks and regularly cut vegetation will also limit their appeal to wildlife.


When floated on standing water, these plastic balls prevent waterfowl and other birds from gaining access to the water.

A number of readily available products exclude wildlife from water habitat. The choice of product will depend on:

  • the size of the area,
  • the type of habitat,
  • the species to be controlled, and
  • the period of time wildlife must be excluded from the area.

There are four proven methods that prevent birds from either landing or swimming on water surfaces:

  1. Overhead systems using metal, nylon or monofilament wire (a 2.5- to 6-metre grid will stop most gulls; a 3- to 4-metre system will stop most waterfowl)
  2. Fine netting
  3. Flagging tape
  4. Plastic balls, which float on water, making it inaccessible to birds.

Grass management

The traditional vegetation mosaic at airports comprises large expanses of grass. Although aesthetically appealing, easy to maintain and functional—absorbing water from rain and snow-melt—grass is likely the dominant bird-attracting feature at airports. Grass fields are habitat for a number of high-risk bird species, providing safety as these birds feed, rest and breed. Given their abundance in airport environments—and the range of wildlife they host—one would expect that extensive data would be available to inform grass-management efforts. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and there is considerable debate among biologists and airport wildlifemanagement officers about how to manage grass spaces.

At most North American airports, significant maintenance resources are dedicated to mowing programs that keep airside grass at relatively short lengths for aesthetic purposes. In other parts of the world, however, programs that maintain long grass have proven to be effective; these measures are gradually being adopted in North America. Hazardous species such as gulls, waterfowl, starlings and lapwings use shortgrass fields for feeding and as safe areas for loafing; allowing grass to grow longer serves several purposes:

  • long, dense grass makes it more difficult for birds to find food such as worms and insects,
  • perhaps more importantly, longer grass reduces birds’ visual contact with surrounding environments and inhibits their ability to detect potential predators, and
  • long grass does not provide birds the space to achieve the wing-beat needed for takeoff.

The U.S. Air Force now requires airfield grass be maintained at a height of 17 to 35 cm, and the USDA has recommended that JFK International Airport maintain mowed vegetation at a height of 15 to 25 cm. In recent years, Vancouver International Airport has undertaken an experimental program using Reed Canary Grass maintained in some areas at a height of over 75 cm. Observations in these long-grass fields indicate that there has been a significant reduction in their use by birds. Transport Canada has traditionally recommended grass lengths in the range of 10 to 15 cm, but the recently updated Wildlife Control Procedures Manual effective grass length.


Grass cutting.

Prior to implementation of a long-grass program, careful consideration should be given to the potential for increased collateral hazards. Long-grass fields may reduce gull and starling numbers, but may create new habitats for other species such as ground-nesting birds, and small mammals such as voles, hares and rabbits. Predator numbers may rise, including hawks, owls and Coyotes. Furthermore, the United States Department of Agriculture has gone against common knowledge and determined Canada Geese are not deterred by long grass. The key point is that no two airports have exactly the same wildlife-management challenges. Wildlife-management success results from knowledge, flexibility, and a willingness to try different solutions in addressing problems. It is essential to identify and prioritize hazardous species, and then focus efforts on the problem wildlife.

While not maintenance-free, long-grass programs are—according to some airport operators—less expensive to sustain; yet their specific cutting regimes may require new grass-cutting equipment. Cutting programs may also demand that dried cut grass be raked periodically so as not to form dense thatch. Accumulated thatch kills turf and increases plant diversity, which in turn may attract yet more wildlife species—and create potential fire hazards. The difficulties associated with cutting long grass can be partially mitigated by applying chemicals that impede growth once the required length is achieved. These habitats may also require chemical applications to reduce broad-leafed weeds, seeds and insects.

In many parts of Canada and the U.S., local soil and climate conditions will not support dense long grass. In these situations, a poor-soil approach to turf management—such as those employed at military airbases in the Netherlands—may offer a solution. Here, the low bio-productivity of the soil does not support high bird numbers. Poor-soil management refers to the hands-off practice in which weeds and other aesthetically unpleasant vegetation are permitted to take over—it’s an approach worthy of consideration in arid areas, prairie regions and the more northerly regions of Canada and the U.S.

The extent of grass habitats at North American airports, and their attractiveness to high-risk species, make long-grass management programs a logical choice for reducing bird numbers. In any case, more related aviation-industry research is warranted.

Community co-ordination for off-airport habitat management

Many current airport-vicinity developments and land uses were never anticipated when most airports were first constructed—a fact that underlines the need for airport operators to have voices in land-use planning processes, partnering with municipal governments, planning authorities, business interests and the agricultural industry. The management of land near airports can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of wildlife-management programs.

Crops (grains, forage legumes)
Livestock feedlots, pig farms
Pasture lands Plowing, haying, harvesting
Orchards, berry farms
Recreational Areas
Drive-in theatres
Golf courses
Picnic areas
Outdoor restaurants
Food Processing
Coastal fish processing plants
Fish-waste outfall
Wildlife Concentration Areas
Wildlife refuges
Bird feeding stations
Bird nesting colonies
Roosting sites
Loafing sites (gulls on flat roofs, parking lots)
Waste Facilities
Garbage barges
Garbage dumps
Waste-transfer stations
Landfills holding organic waste
Compost facilities
Natural Areas
Bush or woodlots
Riparian habitat
Water Bodies
Sewage lagoons
Sewage outfalls
Oxidation ponds
Stormwater retention ponds
Reservoirs and lakes

Table 8.4 Land Use that may Create Wildlife Hazards in the Vicinity of Airports

A good working relationship with neighbouring stakeholders is an essential first step in protecting the interests of an airport and its clients, since many community landuse planners are unfamiliar with the potential impact of off-airport land-use activities on aircraft safety. Awareness programs for key community stakeholders are particularly effective, highlighting the potential flight-safety and liability issues associated with inappropriate land use.

The Transport Canada publications Land Use in the Vicinity of Airports (TP1247) and Aerodrome Standards and Recommended Practices (TP312) provide guidelines for wildlife management outside airport boundaries, identifying land-use activities that are incompatible with the safe operation of airports and aircraft. This information is critical to both airport operators and development of effective wildlife-management programs. Table 8.4 provides a list of land-use activities deemed by Transport Canada to be incompatible with safe aircraft operations.

Solutions for land-use concerns

There are a number of available options to ensure airports enjoy a reasonable degree of protection from incompatible land-use activities:

  • airport operators may implement federal airport zoning regulations and municipal by-laws that restrict specific land-use activities.
  • owners of incompatible land-use facilities may reduce risks associated with their operations voluntarily, through actions that modify the location, design and procedures of risk-generating operations. Regardless of the methods chosen, it is essential that meaningful and productive dialogue be established between an airport operator and other stakeholders in the surrounding community.

Airport zoning and land-use regulations:

Under the authority of the Aeronautics Act, Section 5.4 (2), airport zoning regulations may be enacted to prohibit land-use activities that have been identified as hazardous to aircraft operations. To date, 55 airports across Canada have waste disposal clauses contained within their zoning regulations—clauses derived from Transport Canada guidelines found in TP1247, Land Use in the Vicinity of Airports.

The Transport Canada guidelines identify extremely hazardous land-use that are prohibited within eight km of zoned airport reference points. These activities include:

  • food-waste landfill sites,
  • garbage dumps,
  • coastal commercial fish-processing plants, and
  • some agricultural activities that may either attract birds or adversely affect aircraftflight visibility.

The guidelines also identify moderately hazardous land-use activities that are not recommended within 3.2 km of airport-reference points. These activities include:

  • feedlots,
  • specific agricultural practices,
  • commercial activities such as outdoor theatres,
  • managed or supplemented natural habitats,
  • migratory waterfowl refuges,
  • feeding stations, and
  • designated mammal refuges.

Additional features not recommended within 3.2 km of airport-reference points include:

  • sewage lagoons,
  • manure piles,
  • food waste from restaurants and picnic areas, and
  • fresh tilled or plowed soil.

Distance from airport reference points should not be the only considerations. For example, many gull-movement studies have shown these birds can routinely fly more than 60 km between roosting sites and attractive food sources. Therefore, forcing a new landfill to locate outside an eight-km protected zone may do little to eliminate bird hazards if airports are anywhere between these sites. This is one of the reasons Transport Canada Aerodrome Standards and Recommended Practices (TP312) recommends garbage-disposal facilities—and any other food-source location—within 15 km of the end of any runway be either eliminated or prevented unless a bird-hazard study indicates that the facility is unlikely to create a problem.

Unfortunately, the provisions of TP 1247 and TP312 do not provide ironclad protection. Facilities are immune when established prior to enacting fo zoning regulations. The high costs associated with zoning can also make it an economically impractical solution. Furthermore, poorly managed facilities—such as landfills—outside a protected zone can create significant hazards due to their tendency to attract large numbers of birds, and the highly variable and unpredictable nature of some of these species.

Voluntary implementation of mitigation measures

As unused land becomes scarce, high-risk facilities are frequently located near airports. In these cases, airport operators should exert influence during the design, construction, and licencing phases of these facilities. A well-presented bird-hazard awareness program is a very useful tool in these circumstances, ensuring all stakeholders— including the responsible licencing and regulatory authorities—are aware of potential hazards that may result.

The interests of an airport and its clients can often be best served when bird-hazard studies are conducted prior to design and approval of potentially high-risk sites. Persistent and constructive interventions by the airport operator can ensure voluntary compliance with established airport safety criteria. In addition, airport operators can call on data often provided in the ecological studies, risk-analysis and management plans that these facilities may be required to provide by law.

Here are some of the criteria and conditions found in operational licences for incompatible off-airport land-use activities:

  • requirement for wildlife-management programs;
  • establishment of wildlife-management performance standards;
  • allowance for facility-design modifications;
  • allowance for modifications to facilities’ operating procedures;
  • establishment of appropriate habitat management at facilities;
  • creation of performance bonds to ensure clean-up and compensation should facilities fail to meet their obligations; and
  • authority for airport operators to inspect and monitor facilities’ operations.

Effective management of a hazardous off-airport land use is possible once studies have been completed and mitigation measures identified. As always, airport managers must remain vigilant, establishing and revising procedures to ensure their efforts are appropriate and proactive in reducing the risks associated with these land uses.

Off-airport land use: three case studies

Voluntary implementation of mitigation measures at Winnipeg International Airport

In 1994, authorities at Winnipeg International Airport (WIA) identified a potential bird hazard associated with a proposed waste-disposal facility to be built by BFI Waste Systems under a provincial permit. Even though the site was to be located just outside the eight km bird-hazard protection zone, it was nonetheless directly under both the approach path of Runway 18 and the departure path for Runway 36.

WIA officials were concerned with the towering of gulls over the proposed site. During the planning stage, discussions took place among key stakeholders including BFI, Transport Canada, the airport operator, the airline pilots’ associations and the Manitoba Ministry of Environment. These discussions led to a number of detailed studies and the implementation of voluntary mitigation measures by BFI.

These measures included:

  • reducing the size of the landfill’s active working face during daily operations,
  • covering waste during compaction,
  • replanting of disturbed soil area,
  • eliminating all standing water on the site, and
  • implementing an aggressive bird-management program to dissuade birds from feeding and loafing at the site.

The landfill opened in the fall of 1996 and, to date, the bird hazards associated with the site’s operation appear to be well managed.

Coordinating land-use planning around Ottawa’s MacDonald-Cartier International Airport

For a number of years, the airport operator actively informed municipal planning authorities of the unique bird-hazard issues related to land use around the airport. As a result of these efforts, the two surrounding municipalities (Gloucester and Nepean) established agreements with the airport operator to ensure that consultation would take place prior to approval of any land-use activity that might impact airport operations. The City of Nepean’s official plan states that the airport manager “will be consulted on any plans to develop new waste-disposal sites that may have implications for the airport.”

In 1993, the City of Nepean informed the airport of plans to construct four storm-water retention ponds south of the airport as part of a strategy to control urban drainage for a new community. Initial pond designs included wetland areas and large permanent bodies of water. Following a review of the plan, the airport operator raised concerns that these ponds had the potential to increase bird activity near the airport; the largest of the ponds was poorly located with respect to a proposed parallel runway.

Through discussions between the airport operator and the City of Nepean, the parties agreed that wildlife had to be discouraged from using the ponds. As a first step, the City undertook a baseline study to determine the number and species of hazardous birds in the Ottawa area that could be attracted to the ponds. The flight paths of these birds were also determined, as was their likelihood to use the ponds. As a result, design and landscape modifications were implemented to prevent increased bird activity near the ponds.

Mitigation measures incorporated in the new design included:

  • steep slopes to minimize areas of shallow water;
  • strict on-site garbage management;
  • fines for people found feeding birds;
  • control of water-level fluctuations to reduce exposure of wet, bare soil;
  • ongoing monitoring of bird populations; and
  • mitigation-measure reviews and adjustments as required.

Innovative and environmentally sensitive solutions at Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport is located on Sea Island, a delta of alluvial sediments situated in an estuary where fresh waters of the Fraser River meet salt water of the Pacific Ocean. These unique physical characteristics provide a rich environment for many wildlife species. During peak migration periods, as many as 1.4 million birds use the Fraser River delta; more than 250,000 water birds winter in the estuary, and it is the site of the largest gathering of wintering raptors and Great Blue Herons in Canada.

When plans emerged in the early 90s to build a parallel runway at the airport, measures were taken (under the direction of a multi-agency steering committee) to assess risks associated with bird strikes. Urban development had been continuously encroaching on natural habitats of the Fraser River, and a wildlife conservation area was being considered for land immediately adjacent to the airport. Through negotiation, the conservation area was developed as compensation for habitat that would be lost to the new runway. A number of studies were conducted to ensure both the construction and establishment of the conservation area would not impede aviation safety and habitat protection. The studies included:

  • an avifauna study of Sea Island and surrounding areas,
  • a study analyzing interactions between aircraft and birds on Sea Island, and
  • an evaluation of the effectiveness of the wildlife-management program at the airport.

A 1994 safety review concluded that ongoing modifications to the complex Sea Island ecosystem would lead to a variety of unpredictable changes in behaviour of local bird populations. The team of safety-review experts believed that these changes would create undue hazards unless a dynamic action plan was developed and aggressively pursued by:

  • the airport authority,
  • a number of government departments, and
  • various local and national interest groups.

Recommendations focused on the need to manage the co-existence of incompatible land-use activities.

Success did not come easily, but the stakeholders resolved all issues and successfully developed a comprehensive wildlife-management plan for the Sea Island Conservation Area. In addition, the airport operator expanded the airport wildlifemanagement program. Independent safety reviews have been conducted regularly since 1994; the results indicate that the high risk of bird strikes in the Fraser River estuary has so far been successfully reduced thanks to the full participation of key stakeholders.

Active wildlife management: scaring and removing wildlife

Even the best habitat-management initiatives will not solve all wildlife problems at an airport. Each species has its own behaviour, habitat preferences, preferred foods, loafing and roosting habits, flocking tendencies, daily activity cycles, and times of seasonal occurrence. For these reasons, day-to-day active management interventions are a key requirement of all wildlife-management programs. Many techniques have been developed, involving scaring, harassing and removal of wildlife from specific areas within airport environment.

Active wildlife management has two specific requirements. The first—and most critical—is the need for long-term effectiveness. Techniques must be science-based and vary in presentation to reduce the likelihood of wildlife becoming familiar and comfortable with measures intended to discourage them.

Active techniques must also concentrate on keeping hazardous wildlife off airfields altogether, although moving birds and mammals from one part of an airfield to another is not an acceptable solution. The ability to control dispersal times and locations is key. For example, a potential bird hazard may be created rather than removed if birds are flushed across an active runway.

Typical problem birds that require scaring or removal include gulls, waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans), Rock Doves (pigeons), blackbirds, starlings, crows, hawks, owls, and Snow Buntings. Problem mammals include Coyotes and deer. A range of products and techniques is available to combat these groups; the challenge is to determine which measures are effective and appropriate.

Deciding which product to use

Transport Canada’s Wildlife Control Procedures Manual TP11500 and the corresponding U.S. publication, Wildlife Hazard Management at Airports, provide descriptions of individual wildlife-management products and their uses, but few if any objective comparisons have been made. There is a litany of reasons for this, underlining the lack of science applied in this critical area:

  • Many wildlife-management personnel have first-hand experience with wildlife control equipment and techniques, but much of their knowledge and experience remains unpublished.
  • Information published so far is not easily accessible.
  • Existing evaluations are subjective, in part because it is difficult to compare products and techniques due to:
    • environmental considerations:
      • availability of alternate local attractants for wildlife (e.g., other resting areas and feeding sites),
      • time of day and year and its effect on wildlife numbers and behaviour, and
      • habitat features attracting wildlife to the airport (e.g., food, water, nesting, denning or roosting).
  • products that are often largely ineffective on their own—due to habituation—but can be an effective part of a multi-product approach.
  • many wildlife-control products that are designed primarily for the agricultural industry. Unfortunately, airport operators often buy these products based on their proven short-term effectiveness. In the longer term, however, a product may fail through habituation.

It is crucial that all promising new active wildlife-management techniques be tested in a variety of conditions, using properly designed scientific methods, and that results are published in peer-reviewed journals.

Dispersal and deterrent products

Identified by the manner in which they deter or disperse wildlife, these products fall into the following categories:

  • novelty avoidance,
  • startle reaction,
  • predator mimics, and
  • warning signals.

Birds and mammals quickly learn to differentiate between a threat and an irritant. Most birds tend to avoid any novel stimuli—such as synthetic sounds produced electronically by noise generators—unsure as to whether or not the threat is real. Some curious animals, however, may initially investigate, creating a hazard to aircraft. Once wildlife habituate to a novelty stimulus, it loses its effectiveness, rendering it useless.

Many of the least effective products startle birds or mammals through sudden shocks or loudness. Startle devices such as gas cannons lose their effectiveness once they become an accepted part of the environment, more likely to scare passengers and airport neighbours than animals.

Wildlife-control products and techniques founded in biology—such as scarecrows and hawk kites, which mimic known threats—tend to be more effective over the long term. The period of effectiveness is related directly to the realism of a model’s appearance, behaviour and sound. Birds will habituate quickly to a plastic owl model, but slowly to a stuffed owl grasping a crow that moves and calls; a live owl tethered to a post works even better. Yet birds and mammals will eventually habituate even to the best models unless presentation is occasionally supplemented—by reinforcing through the presence of a fresh kill, for example.

Similarly, warning signals that communicate the immediate or recent presence of a predator—such as distress and alarm calls, predator scents and models of dead birds—are often effective and delay habituation.

For the purposes of this book, wildlife-management products and techniques are rated as follows:

  • highly recommended,
  • partially recommended, and
  • not recommended.

This evaluation is based on answers to three key questions;

  • Is there a sound biological reason to expect a product or technique to work?
  • How quickly—and to what degree—does wildlife habituate to a product or technique?
  • Are measures cost-effective and practical?

Highly recommended products and techniques

elements of a successful, active airport wildlife-management program. They provide long-term effectiveness and lead to little habituation if implemented correctly, but require the frequent involvement of skilled and motivated staff.

Active management techniques may be supplemented with selected techniques from the list of partially recommended products. For example, supplementing pyrotechnics with stuffed gull models can reinforce the danger of the former. Falconry, while somewhat controversial and inappropriate in certain circumstances, can be a useful technique if properly implemented; competent and knowledgeable falconers will include other techniques in developing a rounded approach.

Partially recommended

The majority of wildlife-management products and techniques fall into this category (see Table 8.5), capable of repelling and dispersing birds and mammals, but limited in application and prone to habituation and implementation problems. These products work best when they form part of an integrated program.

habituate relatively quickly to gas cannons and other similar products, however the effectiveness of these products can be extended by avoiding use of automated timers—the element of surprise is critical.

The distress and alarm calls of the Phoenix Wailer® are likely to be more effective than the ultrasounds and synthetic electronic noises also broadcast by these units. Similarly, the synthetic noises produced by the AV-Alarm® hhave no basis in biology—beyond the novelty and startle avoidance reactions they create—and are susceptible to quick habituation. Bird Gard AVA®and Bird Gard ABC® are distresscall players that feature small repertoires of distress and alarm calls of a limited number of species.

Not Recommended
High-intensity sound
Aircraft hazing
Aircraft engine noise
Limited Recommendation
Gas cannons
Phoenix Wailer®
Bird Gard AVA®
Bird Gard ABC®
Reflecting tape
Predator models
Hawk kites and balloons
Gull models
Chemical repellents
Predator calls
Lure areas
Surfactants and water spray
Model aircraft
Dogs (Border Collies)
Highly Recommended
Distress and alarm calls
Trapping & remote release
Gas cannons

Table 8.5 Wildlife Management Products and Techniques—Recommendations

Most visual deterrents such as scarecrows, reflecting tape, predator models, hawk kites and balloons, and gull models are also susceptible to habituation. Chemical repellents can be effective in specific applications. These include:

  • tactile, behavioural and taste aversives such as ReJeX-iT® and Flight Control®®, and
  • earthworm control chemicals such as Benomyl, Tersan, and Terraclor.

Some avian feeding repellents—including Flight Control®®—show considerable promise according to reports from the United States Department of Agriculture. Predator-call playbacks and lure areas have potential in certain bird-management situations, but have been inadequately tested. Surfactants and water spray are suitable for limited applications.

Model aircraft can be successful bird-management tools, but they are labour intensive, requiring highly skilled operators. Although these devices cannot be used near active runways and taxiways, they may offer considerable promise in management of birds that soar at high altitudes above airports, such as hawks and eagles.

Not recommended

The use of high-intensity sound and microwaves is not recommended because the energy levels required are dangerous to humans, birds and other mammals. Few species of birds have the ability to detect ultrasound; those that can have not shown an avoidance reaction. Aircraft hazing and the use of smoke are not recommended because these techniques are impractical in airfield environments. Limited research conducted to date on the use of magnets, lights, dyes, aircraft engine noise and infrasound does not suggest that these products are strong candidates as birdmanagement tools.

Some recent research suggests that low-power, hand-held Class-II and III laser devices (see Chapter 14) may be effective dispersal tools against certain species of birds. While of the opinion that lasers have the potential to be valuable components of comprehensive bird-management programs, many knowledgeable researchers contend that more work is needed to examine the technique in greater detail. As a result, this technology is not yet recommended for bird dispersal.

New wildlife-management products appear on the market regularly, often expensive and heavily promoted. Before incurring significant costs in the purchase and installation of these products, operators should insist on independent, rigorous and unbiased testing rather than rely on the unsubstantiated claims frequently made by manufacturers.

Table 8.5 provides a summary of wildlife-management products and techniques currently available. The following paragraphs briefly explain the use of these tools.

Wildlife-removal techniques

Killing and live trapping are best used in situations where specific individual birds or mammals cause persistent problems.

In live trapping, the animal is released at a safe distance from an airport. Though effective, this technique is labour-intensive, potentially dangerous and rarely offers immediate relief, as it may take weeks to catch problem animals.

Killing wildlife is generally an immediate and short-term solution. Though unsavoury, killing is a legitimate active-management technique, necessary on occasion and effective when committed in conjunction with other methods. Killing is usually accomplished by shooting or poisoning. When shooting is not feasible due to the proximity of aircraft and surrounding dwellings, poisoning programs must be implemented carefully, conducted by trained, licenced professionals. Proper dosage of an appropriate poison should be administered only in the location of the target species so that other wildlife are not inadvertently affected.


One point cannot be overstated: none of the techniques discussed above will work consistently over the long term unless they are applied properly by trained personnel. There is no one magic solution for active wildlife management. All successful programs are founded in science, operated by qualified staff and funded with adequate resources.





1. "Hot Foot" and other similar products discourage birds from perching on fixtures.

2. Swedish Goshawk trap

3. Propane Cannon

4. Radio controlled model airplanes can be effective as a means to disperse soaring birds at relatively high altitudes.





5. Porcupine wire is a very effective way to prevent birds from perching or nesting on fixtures.

6. Falconry can be a very effective way to disperse birds when used as part of a comprehensive active wildlife management program.

7. A variety of small mammal traps.

8. Although relatively primitive, properly applied pyrotechnic use is still one of the most effective techniques for active wildlife management.


Figure 8.1 Stakeholders Who Assist in Developing, Implementing, Monitoring and Maintaining Airport Wildlife Management Plans

Airport wildlife-management plans (AWMPs)

An airport wildlife-management plan ensures wildlife problems are dealt with in a systematic and coordinated manner. A well-developed AWMP minimizes wildlife strikes, improves flight safety and reduces aircraft damage costs. These plans must have clear goals and be supported by airport policy and senior airport managers. AWMPs should also be developed in adherence with Transport Canada’s policy regarding wildlife at airports—a policy in which airport operators have a clear responsibility to provide resources to ensure an AWMP is adequately developed, implemented, monitored and maintained. These resources include personnel, time, training, equipment, vehicles, licensing and permits, as well as funds, required capital and operating improvements at the airport.

Airport wildlife-management committee

The success of AWMPs is to a large extent reliant on effective airport wildlifemanagement committees, which assist in development, implementation and maintenance of a program. Essential as wildlife and safety-information resources, and as communication vehicles, committees should consist of representatives from:

  • airport senior management teams,
  • airside operations,
  • airside planning,
  • airside safety,
  • environmental staff,
  • tenants,
  • ground maintenance staff,
  • emergency response services (ERS),
  • ATS providers,
  • wildlife-management staff,
  • staff or contract biologists,
  • air operators who utilize an airport, and
  • local land-use representatives.

Engaging a range of stakeholders

Throughout this book, emphasis has been placed on the importance of co-operative partnerships between airport and community stakeholders as part of AWMPs. All stakeholders must be recognized as invaluable resources, critical to the integrity of the System Safety Approach. Figure 8.1 identifies stakeholders who typically assist in implementation of effective AWMPs. The text below provides information on the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders.

Bird Strike Committee Canada (BSCC)

BSCC is a national organization that provides a forum for both the exchange of information and the discussion of issues related to reduction of wildlife strikes in Canada. Permanent members include Transport Canada, the Department of National Defence, Health Canada, the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Associate members include major Canadian airlines, aviation industry associations and other interested parties. BSCC is aligned with Bird Strike Committee USA—a joint committee meets annually.

Transport Canada

This federal department is responsible for developing and enforcing regulations, standards and guidelines for the safe operation of airports. Transport Canada provides advice to airports on airport wildlife-management programs. The department also provides training and awareness materials to assist aviation industry personnel in developing and enhancing required skills and techniques to manage wildlife hazards.

Airport wildlife biologists

These scientists are responsible for the biological underpinnings of an AWMP. They oversee habitat modifications and active wildlife-management operations. In addition, wildlife biologists supervise implementation of AWMPs and report on their effectiveness to airport wildlife-management committees.

Wildlife-management personnel

These staff are responsible for daily implementation of AWMPs, ensuring airfields are clear of all hazardous wildlife through use of appropriate wildlife-management techniques. Wildlife-management personnel must be qualified to deal with all activemanagement equipment and techniques. In addition, these professionals should report on airport habitat management to an airport’s wildlife biologist. Wildlife-strike reports and daily AWMP records are prepared and reviewed by wildlife-management personnel to determine appropriate management measures. Wildlife-management personnel communicate with local interest groups to maximize safety and ensure good relations between airports and surrounding communities.

Air traffic service (ATS) providers

ATS providers are critical links between airside workers, wildlife-management personnel and pilots. They immediately communicate observations of wildlife activity, as well as those of pilots and airfield workers, to wildlife-management personnel. ATS personnel also convey safety-critical wildlife-activity information to pilots and coordinate wildlife-management activities to maintain the safe and efficient flow of air traffic.

Airfield workers

Airfield workers include all other airport staff who have airfield access. They are responsible for reporting all wildlife activities to ATS and wildlife-management personnel. Some airfield workers are also responsible for carrying out active wildlifemanagement and other related wildlife management activities, such as grass-height management and habitat modification.


Due to their unique vantage point, pilots are able to observe many wildlife activities, reporting strikes and the presence of wildlife to ATS providers and wildlife-management personnel. When appointing pilot representatives to airport wildlife-management committees, consideration should be given to all members of the community, including air-carrier, business-aircraft, helicopter and general-aviation pilots.

Airport operator

It is the responsibility of airport operators to ensure all airport staff know of potential bird hazards. Airport operators must also provide sufficient direction, information and resources for the effective implementation of AWMPs. Operators take an active role on airport wildlife-management committees, and assume direct responsibility for managing wildlife hazards and public safety. To maintain their duty of care, management must verify that all reasonable precautions are being taken to prevent wildlife strikes, and that sufficient resources are being made available to carry out mitigation measures.

Municipal planners

These professionals plan land use in the vicinity of airports and—in cases where a municipality is airport owner and operator—on the airport. Their planning initiatives must be made with due consideration for regulations, standards, guidelines and policies. Planners are in a position to influence locations, designs and operating regimes of facilities that may contribute to wildlife hazards at airports. These professionals should therefore ensure they have good working knowledge of wildlife issues, and that they avoid incompatible land uses on and near airports.


Figure 8.2 Diagram Showing the Process to Develop, Implement and Maintain an Airport Wildlife Management Plan (AWMP)

Local natural history clubs

Bird-watching groups and hunting clubs are good sources of local wildlife information. Natural history groups can often provide impressively complete bird population data from activities such as Christmas bird counts and local birders’ species lists.

Government agencies

Federal, provincial and municipal governments must be involved in development and implementation of AWMPs. The resulting exchange of information will enhance the System Safety Approach and ensure an AWMP complies with applicable regulations.

Reducing wildlife hazards through the AWMP process

The overall purpose of AWMPs is to reduce wildlife hazards to aviation, so goals should be clear, realistic and as detailed as possible. Clearly defined timelines and milestones must be established along with structured audit and review processes. AWMPs should articulate wildlife-management methods and provide directions for their use.

AWMPs must define chains of authority, assign responsibilities and establish communication networks for both routine wildlife-management operations and emergency situations. These plans should also define budgets, staffing requirements, staff training and upgrading needs, equipment needs, licensing and permit requirements.

Due to the dynamic nature of airports and their surrounding ecosystems—and the changing needs of the aviation industry—AWMPs must be constantly evaluated.

Though subject to further sub-division, these seven elements form the core of AWMPs:

  • airport wildlife policies and goals,
  • research,
  • development,
  • implementation,
  • performance measurement,
  • evaluation and review, and
  • modification and enhancement.

The process used to develop, implement and maintain an airport wildlife-management plan is illustrated schematically in Figure 8.2.

Airport wildlife policy and goals

Airport operators are responsible for developing wildlife-management policies that acknowledge: • local wildlife problems, • potential litigation in cases of serious wildlife strikes, and • Transport Canada regulations, standards, policies and guidelines.

Wildlife-management goals should be clearly established in AWMPs, reflecting the commitment of senior managers to programs.

Research is crucial

Without a clear understanding of the nature and extent of potential problems, specific hazards may be missed and flight safety compromised. For this reason, successful AWMPs are based on accurate information from:

  • wildlife-strike data,
  • aircraft-movement statistics,
  • aircraft types,
  • ground maintenance procedures, and
  • wildlife inventories and ecological studies.

While this information should be readily available, some data collection and analysis may be required. Airport-wildlife inventories and local bird movements are often only available following formal studies designed and supervised by biologists.

AWMPs must comply with a broad range of federal, provincial and municipal legislations. A list of Canadian and U.S. Acts and Regulations is provided in Appendix D. While not exhaustive, it introduces the variety of legislation that may pertain to AWMPs.

Developing AWMPs

As AWMPs must prioritize wildlife-management activities, wildlife-management personnel are responsible for developing the AWMP with support from airport operators.

In developing AWMPs, staff must consider both long- and short-term wildlifemanagement measures, since real reductions in wildlife risks at airports can only be achieved through science-based, systematic processes that combine both. Long-term measures are particularly effective in managing resident species, while short-term measures can be effective against occasional transient species. Migratory species such as geese require careful application of both long and short-term measures.

Long-term vs. short-term management measures

Long-term control measures comprise passive wildlife-management techniques such as major habitat-management projects that make the airport less attractive to wildlife. Long-term measures may require phased implementations due to resources that are either lacking or constrained, perhaps as a result of other airport development projects. The process of developing long-term measures will require coordination with tenants and other airport stakeholders. Remember, while long-term measures may in some cases be more costly and take longer to implement, they are a more effective and lasting solution.

Short-term control measures refer to active wildlife-management techniques that involve harassment, dispersal and removal techniques. AWMPs must identify the active management techniques to be employed, and how their use will be coordinated to ensure safe and efficient airfield operations.


During development of AWMPs, equipment lists should be compiled, identifying when specific equipment is required and what permits and licences will be needed to use the equipment.

The challenge of implementation

Implementing AWMPs involves coordinated efforts by all responsible parties, and especially relies on support from senior management. Appropriate equipment and training must be made available, while awareness of all stakeholders is raised.


Before an AWMP can be successfully implemented, all wildlife-management personnel must be trained to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to carry out measures described in the plan. Training also extends to other stakeholders, who can build their knowledge of wildlife-related issues through involvement in the Bird Strike Committee USA/Canada program. If management measures require federal, provincial or municipal permits—such as a Federal Firearms Possession and Acquisition License— wildlife-management personnel may be required to complete training courses to obtain them.

Building awareness

Successful AWMPs rely on an integrated System Safety Approach to assess and mitigate hazards as described in Chapter 2. To ensure success, all stakeholders must have a clear understanding of their specific roles in maintaining and enhancing flight safety—an understanding derived from awareness programs. These programs are targeted at two specific groups: the aviation community and airport neighbours.

In many cases, the aviation community is poorly informed of wildlife-hazard issues. They may not understand the value of reporting wildlife activity and incidents, or how their reports and involvement contribute to successful management of wildlife risk.

The ecosystem surrounding airports has a direct impact on the effectiveness of AWMPs. Therefore, awareness of wildlife problems must extend beyond an airport’s boundaries to include local natural history groups, municipal planners, government agencies and— to a lesser extent—the general public. Community awareness programs can assist in acquisition of vital data, the ability to mitigate risks of hazardous off-airport land use and—most importantly—to dispel many myths concerning airport wildlifemanagement programs. When airport operators are forced to initiate lethal control over deer herds, it is much easier to accomplish related goals if meaningful dialogue has been maintained with communities.

Awareness programs are often best delivered through airport wildlife-management committees, which are composed of key stakeholders. Their contacts—and organizations they represent—can be tapped to open continuous dialogues on many issues; their support is crucial when conflict arises with opposition groups. Resource material promoting wildlife awareness is available from Transport Canada. manual, bird-migration maps, bird and wildlife-strike report forms.

The value of performance measurement

Performance measurement is necessary to assess AWMPs and determine the need for enhancement or modification. Performance measurement involves routine analysis of records and periodic auditing of AWMPs by airport personnel and outside consultants.

Accurate record keeping is the foundation of any performance measurement system. Some airport operators have been reluctant to keep detailed information on wildlife activity—particularly wildlife strikes—for fear of liability in the event of an accident. There is also a perception that strike data is something of a score sheet, leading some operators to deliberately lower the number of reported wildlife incidents. It’s important to remember that when proving due diligence in the event of an accident, comprehensive data are critical. Well developed, maintained and documented AWMPs—especially those demonstrating rigorous and objective data accumulation and analysis—are vital defence assets in any civil litigation.

The four main components of a comprehensive AWMP reporting system are described below.

Monitoring of wildlife and wildlife-management activities

AWMPs must include complete and accurate records of all wildlife-management activities and wildlife sightings at and near airports.

A daily log should record all wildlife management activities, noting:

  • times wildlife-management activities are initiated;
  • bird numbers and species;
  • management techniques used and the results; and
  • times when management activities conclude.

Ongoing airfield wildlife inventories should be maintained, updated, reviewed and analyzed to provide accurate and up-to-date information. These inventories help determine trends and identify species that may become hazardous. There are software tools available today which make the task of recording and analyzing wildlifemanagement activity much easier; the reports these programs produce are very useful for determining where changes should be made in AWMPs.

Wildlife-strike reporting and recording

Wildlife-strike reports should be maintained, reviewed and summarized to ensure the accurate current information that is critical to informing updates of AWMPs. All wildlife incidents should be reported to Transport Canada using the process described in Appendix C.

Each report should include as many details as possible. Remember that even though a form may be incomplete from one reporter, additional information may be submitted by others. When Transport Canada completes the annual summary of Bird Strikes to Canadian Aircraft, duplicate reports are used to supplement and verify information about individual episodes. Every effort is made by Transport Canada and the FAA to prevent double-counting of incident reports.

General AWMP record keeping

Other records are just as crucial to the planning process, and may include information on policies, new laws and regulations, training programs and management reviews. As always, precision and timeliness are paramount, ensuring this information demonstrates the strength and effectiveness of an AWMP in reducing liability when serious wildlife strikes occur.

Wildlife studies

Periodically, special wildlife studies may be necessary to identify changes in wildlife populations, as well as species composition in areas where extensive habitat management has been carried out. These before-and-after studies measure the success of large-scale, costly habitat modifications and identify unexpected problems and side effects.

Evaluation and review

From time to time, airport operators should carry out structured management reviews of AWMPs. While ongoing review of records is an essential component of performance measurement, periodic auditing is also valuable, evaluating:

  • the goals and objectives of a plan,
  • methods used to achieve goals and objectives,
  • management methods used, and
  • results achieved compared to defined objectives.

Auditors inspect each element of a management plan both to assess effectiveness of long- and short-term management measures and to inform ongoing improvements.

Modification and enhancement

The AWMP process is not complete until recommended modifications are applied to a wildlife-management program, whether from reporting programs or audits. Modifications are especially important if planned goals are not being met. These changes are in turn monitored to ensure big-picture changes are in fact improving AWMPs.

CASE STUDY JFK International Airport Wildlife-management Plan

Operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport has suffered from a serious bird-strike problem since the 1970s. Each year, there are approximately 350,000 aircraft movements at JFK, while inventories describe millions of birds—as many as 300 different species—at and near the airport. These numbers suggest—and strike data confirm—an ever-present high probability of bird strikes; at one time, JFK had the highest number of reported bird strikes in North America.

The primary goal of JFK’s airport wildlife-management plan is to improve safety for all users, yet development of an AWMP was no easy task. JFK is situated next to a federally protected wildlife refuge in the region’s most biologically productive environment. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) both played important roles in provisions for ongoing communication among the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, and the airport operator to ensure that conflicting wildlife-management goals do not compromise flight safety.

A unique challenge arose at JFK in 1979 when a colony of Laughing Gulls settled into marsh habitat immediately adjacent to the airport, doubling reported bird strikes. To solve this problem, the airport operator modified the wildlife management plan and expanded its scope. Modifications included a highly controversial lethal-control program recommended and supported by the USDA. In spite of controversy, the shooting program succeeded in reducing Laughing Gull strikes by 90 percent. The quality of the AWMP and the scientific studies that were conducted by the USDA provided justification for a bird-management program that may not have been possible otherwise.


It is possible to significantly reduce the number of wildlife strikes at an airport through effective wildlife management. Airport operators must ensure adequate funding and promote wildlife management as a high-priority component of broader airport-safety programs. While it is unrealistic to expect habitat management and active controls to eliminate all wildlife from airports, there is sufficient evidence to show that properly developed and implemented wildlife-management programs can effectively reduce the number of wildlife interactions with aircraft, contributing significantly to safe airport and aircraft operations. This goal can only be achieved through the firm commitments of senior management to the success of wildlifemanagement programs.