An Inside Look At Bird Control Methods Used At Airports

A bird strike – a collision between a bird and an aircraft – can cause dangerous and even fatal accidents. That’s why airports use an array of creative methods to deter birds from receiving an unsafe welcome.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Airports use techniques like reflective materials, falcons, loud noises, remote-control drones, and habitat modification to scare away birds and stop them from living or feeding on airport grounds.

This article will provide an in-depth look at the most common and innovative ways airports work to keep birds away from runways and taxiways. You’ll learn how airports analyze bird activity patterns, the pros and cons of different deterrence tools, and how pilots can also help avoid catastrophic bird strikes.

Understanding Bird Strike Risks and Patterns

When it comes to aviation safety, bird strikes pose a significant risk to both passengers and aircraft. A bird strike occurs when a bird collides with an aircraft during takeoff, landing, or while in flight.

These incidents can range from minor inconveniences to major disasters, depending on the size and type of bird involved.

The Frequency and Consequences of Bird Strikes

Bird strikes are more common than you might think. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that there are over 14,000 bird strikes reported in the United States each year. While most bird strikes do not result in accidents, they can still cause significant damage to aircraft and endanger the lives of those on board.

Collisions with birds can cause damage to the windshield, engines, landing gear, and other critical components of an aircraft. In some cases, bird strikes have led to emergency landings or even crashes.

For instance, in 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 had to perform an emergency landing on the Hudson River after both engines were disabled by a bird strike. Thankfully, all passengers and crew survived, but the incident served as a stark reminder of the potential dangers of bird strikes.

Understanding Bird Strike Patterns

Bird strikes can occur at any airport, but certain factors can increase the likelihood of these incidents. Airports located near bodies of water, landfills, or agricultural areas are particularly susceptible to bird strikes.

This is because these environments attract large numbers of birds, which can pose a threat to aircraft in the vicinity.

Additionally, bird strikes tend to occur more frequently during certain times of the year. Migration seasons, when large flocks of birds are on the move, can increase the risk of bird strikes. Airports in areas with high bird populations or along migratory routes need to be especially vigilant in implementing bird control measures.

Understanding bird strike patterns is crucial for developing effective bird control methods at airports. By studying the behavior and migration patterns of birds in a specific area, airport authorities can implement strategies to minimize the risk of bird strikes.

These strategies may include habitat management, deterrent systems, and active surveillance.


  1. Federal Aviation Administration – Bird Strike Information
  2. Bird Strike Committee USA

Low-Tech Deterrence Tools

When it comes to bird control methods used at airports, low-tech deterrence tools play a crucial role. These tools are designed to discourage birds from inhabiting or nesting in airport areas, reducing the risks of bird strikes and other aviation hazards.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these effective low-tech deterrence methods.

Reflective Materials

One commonly used low-tech bird control method at airports is the use of reflective materials. These materials, often in the form of strips or tape, create a visual deterrent for birds. The reflective surfaces disorient and confuse the birds, making them less likely to approach or settle in the area.

Airports strategically place these materials on structures, equipment, and other surfaces where birds are prone to gather. The glinting reflections created by these materials effectively disrupt the birds’ flight patterns and discourage them from becoming a hazard.

Distress Call Systems

Another effective low-tech bird control method is the use of distress call systems. These systems emit recordings of distress calls specific to certain bird species, creating an illusion of danger and causing the birds to become wary of the area.

The distress calls simulate the presence of a predator or other threat, prompting the birds to seek safety elsewhere. Airports strategically deploy these systems in areas where birds tend to congregate, such as runways and taxiways.

The use of distress call systems has proven to be highly effective in deterring birds and minimizing the risks they pose to aircraft.

Natural Predators

Nature itself provides a low-tech solution to bird control at airports: natural predators. Airports can encourage the presence of natural predators, such as falcons or hawks, to help keep bird populations in check.

Falconry programs, for example, involve the use of trained birds of prey to scare off or capture nuisance birds. The presence of these natural predators creates an environment where birds are less likely to settle and cause potential hazards.

This method not only serves as an effective deterrent but also promotes ecological balance by harnessing the power of natural control mechanisms.

It’s important to note that low-tech deterrence tools are often used in combination with other bird control methods to maximize their effectiveness. By implementing reflective materials, distress call systems, and encouraging the presence of natural predators, airports can significantly reduce the risks associated with bird strikes and enhance aviation safety.

High-Tech Deterrence Innovations

Airports are constantly looking for innovative ways to control birds and prevent bird strikes, as these incidents can pose a serious threat to aircraft safety. In recent years, high-tech deterrence methods have emerged as effective ways to keep birds away from airport premises.

These methods combine advanced technology with the natural instincts of birds to create a safe environment for both the feathered creatures and the planes that soar through the sky.

Remote-Controlled Drones

One of the most intriguing developments in bird control at airports is the use of remote-controlled drones. These unmanned aerial vehicles are equipped with various deterrent mechanisms, such as loud noises, bright lights, and even lasers.

When birds approach the airport, these drones can be deployed to scare them away without endangering the aircraft. The use of remote-controlled drones has proven to be highly effective in reducing bird strikes and minimizing the risk of damage to airplanes.

Radar Surveillance Systems

Radar surveillance systems have also become an integral part of bird control strategies at airports. These systems use advanced radar technology to detect the presence of birds in the vicinity of the airport.

By continuously monitoring the airspace, these systems can alert airport authorities to the potential danger and enable them to take necessary measures to prevent bird strikes. This technology allows airports to proactively manage bird populations and mitigate the risks associated with their presence.

Robotic Falcons

Robotic falcons are another fascinating bird control innovation that has gained popularity in recent years. These lifelike robotic birds of prey are designed to imitate the flight patterns and behaviors of real falcons.

When deployed at airports, they act as natural deterrents, scaring away birds and preventing them from nesting or congregating in hazardous areas. Robotic falcons have proven to be highly effective in reducing bird strikes, as they exploit birds’ natural fear of predators to create a safer environment for aircraft operations.

While these high-tech deterrence innovations have shown great promise in bird control efforts at airports, it’s important to note that they are often used in conjunction with other methods, such as habitat management, bird relocation, and the use of sonic devices.

By combining various strategies, airports can create a comprehensive bird control plan that ensures the safety of both birds and airplanes.

Habitat Modification Techniques

Habitat modification techniques are an essential part of bird control methods used at airports. These methods focus on altering the environment to make it less attractive and habitable for birds, thus reducing the risk of bird strikes and potential damage to aircraft.

There are several effective habitat modification techniques that airports employ:

Removing Food Sources

One of the key strategies in bird control is to remove or minimize the availability of food sources that attract birds to the airport vicinity. This involves implementing proper waste management practices and ensuring that trash bins are securely covered.

Additionally, airports may employ measures such as regular cleaning of food spills, proper storage of food waste, and prompt removal of any potential food attractants.

Blocking Roosting Sites

Blocking roosting sites is another effective method to discourage birds from congregating near airports. Birds often seek out roosting areas on structures such as hangars, buildings, and other airport infrastructure.

By implementing physical deterrents such as spikes, netting, or wire mesh, airports can prevent birds from perching and roosting in these areas. This helps to disrupt their nesting habits and reduces the risk of bird strikes.

Drainage Management

Proper drainage management is crucial for bird control at airports. Birds are attracted to areas with standing water, as they provide an abundant source of food and potential nesting sites. By implementing effective drainage systems and regularly maintaining them, airports can minimize the presence of stagnant water, thereby reducing the attraction for birds.

This can include ensuring that drainage ditches are clear of debris, maintaining proper slope and grading, and regularly inspecting and repairing any potential water accumulation areas.

Implementing these habitat modification techniques can significantly reduce the presence of birds at airports, mitigating the risk of bird strikes and ensuring the safety of aircraft and passengers. It is important for airports to work closely with wildlife management experts and follow best practices in order to create an environment that is less conducive to bird habitation.

What Pilots Can Do to Avoid Bird Strikes

Bird strikes pose a significant risk to aircraft safety, and pilots play a crucial role in mitigating this danger. Here are some important steps pilots can take to avoid bird strikes:

1. Stay vigilant during takeoff and landing

Pilots should be extra cautious during takeoff and landing, as these are the most critical phases of flight when bird strikes are more likely to occur. They should keep a watchful eye for any bird activity in the vicinity of the runway and be prepared to take evasive action if necessary.

2. Familiarize yourself with bird migration patterns

Knowing the regular routes and migration patterns of birds in the area can help pilots anticipate potential bird strike hazards. By understanding when and where birds are most likely to be present, pilots can adjust their flight paths accordingly to minimize the risk of collisions.

3. Report bird sightings to air traffic control

Pilots should promptly report any bird sightings to air traffic control, as this information can be crucial for other aircraft in the vicinity. Reporting bird activity allows air traffic control to notify other pilots and take necessary measures to avoid potential bird strike incidents.

4. Maintain a safe altitude

Keeping a safe altitude is an effective way to reduce the likelihood of bird strikes. Birds are more likely to be found at lower altitudes, so pilots should aim to fly at higher altitudes whenever feasible.

This not only minimizes the risk of bird strikes but also provides pilots with more time to react and maneuver if necessary.

5. Utilize bird detection technologies

Advancements in technology have led to the development of bird detection systems that can help pilots identify and avoid birds in real-time. These systems use radar or other sensors to detect bird activity and provide pilots with early warnings.

Pilots should familiarize themselves with these technologies and take advantage of them to enhance flight safety.

By following these guidelines and staying proactive, pilots can significantly reduce the risk of bird strikes and contribute to safer skies for everyone.


Bird strikes pose a major safety risk, so airports invest heavily in both understanding bird behavior patterns and finding creative ways to deter birds from their premises.

While no single technique is perfectly effective, the combination of innovations like drones and falcons with habitat control gives airports the best chance at keeping birds away and passengers safe.

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