Bird Scaring Case Study – Airport Wildlife Management Measures

29 August 2017

Since the first aircraft set to the skies the threat of bird strikes has been present, and whilst long term preventative strategies are employed, reactive dispersal techniques remain to be a significant wildlife management employment at airports worldwide.

The first ever recorded wildlife strike happened in September 7th, 1905, during one of the first flights of the Wright brothers (Orville), while the 1st lethal bird strike occurred in April 3rd, 1912 at Long Beach California.

Regarding the active measures for wildlife management bio-acoustics, pyrotechnics, trapping & relocation, and lethal control are those mostly used at the airports worldwide.




Pyrotechnics have been widely popular for many years due to the effectiveness at dispersing birds rapidly and reliably but also cost effectively. Whilst they do require the availability of firearms and appropriately trained airside personnel, pyrotechnics are the dominant force in ensuring airports immediate vicinity’s are safely bird free.

Alternatively, Bio-acoustics are popular because:

  1. They are easy to use.
  2. Many airports worldwide are not allowed to use firearms, and therefore pyrotechnics. Similarly facilities/ land uses close to airports mean that firearms cannot be used to deter wildlife.
  3. Bioacoustics switch the mind of wildlife from a safe mode to an unsafe mode, usually instantly and as they start looking around the chance to see the aircraft approaching increases.

However, bio-acoustics have some well-known disadvantages:

  1. Distance, as the calls cannot always be heard far from the speakers.
  2. Distribution of the sound, during days with strong winds.
  3. Studies indicate it can take a significant period of time for some wildlife to associate the calls with danger and can therefore provide a slow and unreliable effect.
  4. The response effect of wildlife can be unpredictable and unreliable especially when dealing with multiple species.

While the problem of the use of bio-acoustics regarding the distance and the distribution can be solved using a LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device),  however this is an expensive solution, while the rest of the disadvantages may play some role. Not to forget that LRAD is not easy to be handled.

So in cases there are firearms available as a measure, pyrotechnics and/or lethal control can be used to enforce bio-acoustics.




Lethal bird control is another measure that can be used to manage wildlife on a given airfield with obvious results; however the use of lethal control, either to enforce bio-acoustics or as stand-alone practice has some disadvantages:

  1. You cannot kill too many individuals, even if you have a permit.
  2. You have to collect the dead wildlife.
  1. The range of the shotgun is restricted.

Pyrotechnics are a favorable option due to the proven effectiveness and rapid implementation, via 12 Gauge shotgun or Signal Pistol. However as previously mentioned, pyrotechnics are not always an available option.

So when pyrotechnics are available at an airport they can play two roles:

  1. As a stand-alone measure, this can escalate the range of your deterrent ability up to 150m downwind.
  2. As an enforcement of bio-acoustics. Guiding the birds to certain directions should be considered as part of this enforcement.

A key factor that plays an important role in the use of the various active measures mentioned above at an airport is the recommendation of wildlife management auditors to alternate the measures in order to avoid habituation. This can be achieved using Pyrotechnics through cartridge selection (Varied effects) or between multiple wildlife deterrent measures.


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