US airports work to minimise Snowy Owl bird-strike risk

snowy owls pose major risk to US airfields

Airports located in the eastern United States are dealing with increasing numbers of Snowy Owls which represent a major threat to civil aviation when nesting near busy airfields.

snowy owls pose major risk to US airfields

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data ranks Snowy Owls among the bird species most likely to cause damage when struck by aircraft.  The owls’ size, mass, density, and low-flying habits are hazard factors.

On Saturday, December 29, a Snowy Owl was reported on the airfield at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, near Runway 4-22.  A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services Wildlife Technician stationed at BWI Marshall set a trap for the large bird, which was captured, banded and relocated the next day, well away from the airport.

“Airlines and airports work hard to help prevent the hazards related to bird strikes,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, Chief Executive Officer of BWI Marshall.  “At BWI Marshall, we take a number of proactive measures to make aviation safer while protecting wildlife.”

BWI Marshall has a comprehensive, integrated program in place to help minimize conflict between birds and aircraft.  Two USDA Wildlife Services employees are stationed at BWI Marshall to assist the Airport with this important work.

Storm-water management facilities are specifically designed to not appeal to birds.  The goal is to minimise standing water that could attract waterfowl or other birds.  Specific vegetation and landscaping across the Airport property is designed to not attract birds.

Beyond the active environmental and planning efforts, numerous prevention methods are used to harass birds away from aircraft operating areas.  For example, the Airport uses twelve propane cannons positioned at strategic locations around the airfield.  These cannons can be fired remotely to produce a loud noise to frighten birds away from aircraft operating areas.  Similarly, USDA Wildlife Services personnel at BWI Marshall use a number of hand-held devices which produce loud noises or bright flashes to deter birds.


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