Civil and Military Birdstrikes in Europe: An Ornithological Approach
Gulls and diurnal raptors posit the greatest danger for both military and civil air traffic in Europe. Less dangerous turn out to be Swallows, Swifts, Pigeons, European Starlings and Northern Lapwings. Storks, Herons and Vultures are dangerous locally. The most tragic accidents are caused by Gulls, European Starlings and Northern Lapwings. The most frequently used methods of bird deterrence are falconry, pyrotechnics and the broadcasting of distress calls. Bird deterrence methods with the use of lasers and radio controlled models are currently only being developed. A great future challenge for European air traffic will be connected with the rising populations of large wetland birds.
Received: July 23, 2010;
Accepted: August 06, 2010;
Published: November 10, 2010
Europe plays an important integrating part in the global net of civil airlines
connections (Graham, 1995; Steiner
et al., 2008). Currently in Europe there are ca. 280 airports serving
international scheduled connections (Trzepacz, 2007).
It is quite clear that in future the market of airline transportation will increase
dynamically. Moreover, Europe is the base of several military powers possessing
both numerous airports and a considerable number of military aircrafts (Dekker
and van Gasteren, 2005). Just as the civil ones, they have to confront the
danger posed by birds. Identifying the species endangering air traffic can help
choose proper deterrence techniques employed at the airfields. The aim of this
study is to present bird species posing danger to military and civil air traffic
and to briefly characterise deterrence techniques used in Europe.
British Isles (UK and Ireland): Novel data analysing the top ten species
most frequently causes collisions point to the Gulls Laridae as the most
important danger at the UK airfields (Civil Avition Authority,
2009). Out of 1154 collisions, in 635 (55%) cases the species of participating
birds were recorded. Seagulls caused 196 (21%) of all accidents. Most of them
(30%) were caused by Black-headed Gulls Larus ridibundus. The participation
of common Gulls Larus canus and herring Gulls Larus argentaus
was 25.1 and 18.5%, respectively. The remaining Gulls were not marked. Pigeons
Columba sp., mostly Wood Pigeons Columba palumbus, were responsible
for 13.2% of collisions. Common swifts Apus apus and Barn Swallows Hirundo
rustica caused 13% of collisions. Skylarks Alauda arvensis and Eurasian
Kestrels Falco tinnunculus, typical of open fields, took part in 6.2
and 3.9% of all accidents, respectively.
The analysed list does not include Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus,
although still in the years 1976-1995 they were responsible for the 17.4% of
the 1704 collisions. This absence reflects the breakdown of the Lapwings population
in the UK (Sheldon et al., 2004). In 1973-1982
Gulls caused 42% of bird strikes in the UK (Horton et
al., 1983), including the 1981 catastrophe over the Bristol Channel
where the collision of a Jaguar T2 with a Gull caused the life of one of the
pilots (Richardson and West, 2000). Richardson
and West (2005) cite data on 62 collisions of Royal Air Forces (RAF) aircrafts
over the British Islands in the years 1923-2004, confirming the leading role
of Gulls in causing dangers. In 23 (37.1%) cases the perpetrators were identified:
65.2% of them were Gulls, particularly Black-headed Gulls (5 accidents) and
in isolated cases Common Gulls Larus canus and Herring Gulls Larus
argentatus. Two collisions were caused by both Lapwings and unidentified
Ducks. Single accidents were provoked by Wood Pigeons, Buzzards Buteo buteo,
Rock Pigeons Columba livia and unmarked waders.
In two cases Gulls collided with planes particularly important for national
security. In 1976 at the Merdam Air Base (E England) a strategic bomber aircraft
Victor K-2 reported damages of the nose, fuselage and wings. In 1980 at Kinloss
Air Base (N Scotland) a maritime patrol aircraft Nimrod MR2 crashed after the
collision with a flock of Black-headed Gulls and common Gulls. Two members of
the crew were killed (Richardson and West, 2005).
Thorpe (1978) analysed 400 bird strikes from the UK
in the years 1968-1977 involving planes of the mass lower than 5.7 ton. The
perpetrators were Gulls (54%), Northern Lapwings (18%), Pigeons (9%) and Swallows
(3%). There have also been reported collisions with greylag geese Anser anser
and Northern Gannets Sula bassana. Gulls Laridae were the perpetrators
of the 68.5% of all the 734 RAF aircrafts collisions whose offenders were found.
Among them, 65.4% of events resulted in noticeable damages (Dekker
and Van Garsteren, 2005). Other families provoked fewer collisions: Columbidae
(4.9%), Passeriformes and Hirudidae (4%), Charadriidae (4%), Sturnidae (3.8%),
Accipitriidae (3.5%), Corvidae (3.5%), Apodidae (3.2%), Anatidae (1.9%), Falconidae
(1.6%) and Turdidae (0.5%). The remaining birds were responsible for 0.5% of
collisions. Several interesting birdstrikes recorded from the Heathrow Airport
(London) are worth presenting. From 1991-98 we know of at least 6 collisions
involving Grey Herons Ardea cinerea and at least 2 collisions with Ducks
(AAIB Bulletin 1999, 2001). An
important collision in September 1998 involved a Boeing 767-322 ER colliding
with a flock of Canadian Geese Branta canadensis (AAIB
In the autumn-winter seasons of the years 1990-2000 at the Dublin airport (Ireland)
Gulls constituted 24% of the 273 individuals involved in birdstrikes (Kelly
et al., 2001). Fennessy et al. (2005)
observe that at the same airport in the years 1995-2002 frequently observed
Rooks Corvus frugilegus elicited only 1 0% of collisions. Black-headed
Gulls caused 15% of collisions there, although they were rarely recorded.
Countries of Western Europe (Belgium, Netherlands and Germany): From
Belgium and Netherlands Gulls, Feral Pigeons, wading birds, Corvids Corvidae
and European Starlings Sturnus vulgaris are recorded as the most frequent
danger for planes and the species involved in birdstrikes (Richardson
and West, 2000; Dekker, 2003). Louette
(1972) points to Domestic Pigeons Columba livia domestica and Black-headed
Gulls as the basic threat for Belgian airfields. He describes the frequent presence
of dead Black-headed Gulls on the runway of the Zaventem-Brussels Airfield.
In April 1978 at the airport at Gossellies a serious collision of a B-373 with
a Wood Pigeon was recorded (Russell, 2002).
In the years 1977-1983 226 birdstrikes of fighters F-104, NF-5 and F-16 from
Royal Netherlands Air Forces were recorded (Buurma et
al., 1984). Most frequently they were caused by Swallows and often by
Common Swifts (38.9%) and Gulls (31.0%). Occasionally the offenders were Magpies
Pica pica (14.6%) and pigeons Columbidae (8.4%). Eurasian Buzzards and
definitely Common Swifts, took part in only 3.5% of such accidents. For the
remaining collisions the perpetrators were not identified. In the years 1987-2008
at 3 main military airbases of Netherlands 27 collisions with Eurasian Buzzards
and 116 with Eurasian Kestrels were recorded (Dekker, 2009).
In July 1996 at the airport in Eindhoven (S Netherlands) a Belgian Hercules
C-130 crashed after the collision with a big flock of European Starlings and
Lapwings; 34 people were killed. A month earlier a Belgian SF 260 collided with
a flock of Lapwings at the airport of Morsele (Richardson
and West 2000). In 2001 near Vlieland Island a combat jet Tornado class
flew into a flock of Black Guillemots Cepphus grylle. Pilots ejected
successfully (Wiede, 2003).
In the years 2002-2004, 2008 birdstrikes were recorded at 12 main airfields
of Germany, for the 40% of which the perpetrators were identified (Breuer,
2005). Most numerous among them were the diurnal raptors Falconiformes
which caused 215 (26.5%) accidents. Buzzards were the dominating species here,
responsible for the 61.1% of the 144 cases. Eurasian Kestrels caused 37.5% of
collisions. In contrast, Red Kites Milvus milvus took part in only 2
Data from 1978-1997 suggest that in birdstrikes of German Air Forces 415 of
marked diurnal raptors took part. Most numerous of them (66.3%) were Eurasian
Buzzards, Red Kites and Black Kites Milvus migrans. Falcons, mostly Eurasian
Kestrels, constituted 118 (28.4%) of all collision victims. The remaining 22
birds included Harriers Circus sp., Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus
and Goshawks Accipiter gentilis. Small songbirds analysed by Breuer
(2005) caused 22.6% of collisions. Among them, the most numerous were Swallows,
taking part in 123 (15.2%) accidents. Big songbirds (e.g., European Starlings,
Black Birds Turdus merula and other Trushes Turdus sp. were the
cause of 4.7% of collisions, while Common Swifts provoked only 5.9%. Pigeons
were responsible for ca. 11% of collisions and among the Gulls, Black-headed
Gulls dominated (82.0%). Northern Lapwings were responsible for 78% of the 41
birdstrikes involving waders. Worth noticing are also 2 collisions with both
Curlews Numenius arquata and Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus.
Thirteen collisions with Grey Herons and one with a white stork Ciconia ciconia were reported. Sixteen other collisions with unknown Geese and Ducks took place, too. The picture of the danger posed by wetland birds at German airfields is completed by isolated accidents involving Common Cranes Grus grus and Great crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus. Breur cites data on 38 collisions with Corvids and Galliform birds Galliformes. Out of the 13 owls, only 7 individuals of Long-eared Owl Asio otus were marked.
For the years 1952-1998 only 5 perpetrators of the collisions with the RAF
aircrafts located in the Western part of Germany were recorded. Two first accidents
were caused by Gulls, including Black-headed Gulls. The remaining accidents
involved unidentified Passerines, Rooks and Buzzards (Richardson
and West, 2005). From East Germany comes the data from the years 1970-81
and 1987-1992 on birdstrikes involving the aircrafts of Soviet Air Forces located
there (Jacoby, 1998). The offenders were identified
for 63 out of 426 events. Most numerous among them were diurnal raptors (13%).
The following 11% of accidents involved Pigeons and Gulls. Ducks, Swallows and
European Starlings caused 8% of collisions each. Geese, Skylarks and Sparrows
(Passer sp.) provoked birdstrikes in 6% of times each.
Dekker and van Garsteren (2005) claim that Gulls Laridae
stand behind 29.2% of the collisions of German Air Forces (out of the 685 collisions
in the years 1991-2000 whose offenders were identified). Almost 72.4% of these
accidents resulted in damages of aircrafts. Other groups of birds caused far
fewer collisions: Passeriformes and Hirudidae (26.8%), Accipitriidae (10.5%),
Apodidae (9.2%), Columbidae (4.9%), Charadriidae (4.3 %), Corvidae (2.5%), Anatidae
(3.4%), Falconidae (3.4%), Turdidae (3.4%) and Sturnidae (1.2%). The remaining
birds were responsible for only 0.9% of all collisions. Richardson
and West (2000) described the collision of an German AF Alpha Jet with Herring
Gulls over the North Sea in March 1990, in which the pilot was killed.
Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden and Finland): Data on birdstrikes in Scandinavia
come chiefly from Norway. In the years 1985-1995 345 military birdstrikes were
recorded there (Aas, 1996, 1997).
The greatest number of collisions-90 (26.1%)-was caused by Gulls Lariade.
Among them, the most common perpetrators were Herring Gulls and Common Gulls.
Waders took part in 13.0% of accidents, mostly Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria.
The collisions with Curlews were noted as well. Diurnal raptors and Corvids
were involved in a small percentage of collisions: 1.4 and 0.9%, respectively.
Swallows and Common Swift Apus apus, grouped together in analyses of
collision risks, provoked only 4.1% of accidents. Aas (1996)
informs also about 2 collisions with Fulmars Fulmarus glacialis (mass
~6 kg). Reported, too, were the collisions with Snow Buntings Plectrophenax
nivalis (3.5%) at the airport on the island Andoya (N Norway), caused by
the inadequate snow management near the runway (Bentz, 1984).
In December 2004 at the military base Orland (S Norway) a C-130 Hercules, while
taking off, collided with four Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus (mass ~13.5
kg) reporting damages (NBSAG, 2008). Yet, these were
large Sea Gulls that caused greatest losses to the military aviation in Norway
(Aas, 1996, 1997). In May 1995
a F-16 B jet crashed in Rygge airbase (SE Norway) when at the altitude of 335
m it collided with a Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus. Pilots were
ejected successfully and saved life (Aas, 1996). In
1971 the collision with a Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus resulted
in the death of the pilot and the crash of a F-5 jet (Aas,
Information from Sweden about 917 birdstrikes recorded in the years 1998-2005
does not mention the bird species involved in them (Andersson,
2006). It just points out that 65% of accidents were caused by small bird
species the size of the European Starling, 29% were provoked by birds the size
of Gulls and in 6% of cases the perpetrators were the size of geese. Widely
commented was the catastrophe of a Finish school jet Hawk Mk51 at Kruunupyy
base on 28 September 2006, when during the night landing the plane flew into
a flock of Eurasian Wigeons Anas penelope. The pilot ejected successfully.
East Central Europe (former Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary): Murar
(1994a) (b)records that in the years 1987-1992 the
military aircrafts of Czechoslovakia (now The Czech Republic and The Slovakia
Republic) took part in 217 birdstrikes. In 82 cases the offenders were identified.
Most numerous of them (20.7%) were Gulls Larus sp. (17 events). Fewer
accidents were caused by Barn Swallows (14 events) and Feral Pigeons (10 events),
Eurasian Buzzards (9 events), Common Swifts (6 events), Eurasian Kestrels (5
events), Skylarks 4 (events) and Ducks (3 events). Ten species were the cause
of 14 (17.1%) of collisions; these were Rook, Long-eared Owl, Grey Partridge,
European Starling, European Blackbird Turdus merula, House Sparrow Passer
domesticus, Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, Common House Martin Delichon
urbicum, Quail Coturnix coturnix and Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis.
In the years 1993-1999 Air Forces of The Czech Republic recorded 98 collisions
whose perpetrators were identified (Krupka, 2000). Among
them, Black-headed Gulls, Barn Swallows and Common House Martins dominated,
causing 12 (12.2%) events. The following eleven birdstrikes were provoked by
Pigeons Columba sp. Eurasian Kestrels, Hoopoes and European Starlings
were responsible for 8 collisions each, while Skylarks, Eurasian Buzzards, Rooks
and Long-eared Owls were involved in 5 accidents each. The remaining 19 birdstrikes
involved 1-3 collisions with Mallards, Greylag Geese, White Storks, Northern
Lapwings, Partridges, Greenfinches Carduelis chloris, Great Spotted Woodpeckers
Dendrocopos major, Chaffinches Fringilla coelebes, Linnets Carduelis
cannabina, Wagtails Motacillidae, Doves Streptopelia sp. and unknown
owls (Krupka, 2000). In Czechoslovakia two collisions
were reported: an Areo L-29R with a Grey Partridge in 1967 and a jet Mig 21
MF with Black-headed Gulls in 1985 (Richardson and West,
In Poland, too, birds pose danger for airtraffic. Data from the years 1965-1966
report at least 2 dangerous air accidents caused by birds. The first of them
involved a jet TS 11 Iskra class which collided with a flock of Pigeons Columba
sp. Several birds got into the engine stopping its work, the pilot had to perform
a crash landing. The other situation involved the collision of the plane Lim
5 with a flock of several thousand Jackdaws Corvus monedula and Hooded
Crows Corvus cornix. While colliding, approximately 400 Corvids were
killed, of which 30-50 individuals were sucked into the engine (Milkiewicz,
1967). In August 1965 near the airfield in Radom (C Poland) a TS-11 Iskra
flew into a flock of domestic pigeons which stopped the work of the engine.
During the crash landing the pilot was killed and the plane crashed (Klich,
2008). In April 1972, during the collision of the plane Lim-1AT
with a Buzzard or Goshawk, the pilot lost his eye and suffered head damages
(Klich, 2008). At present, some of the Polish airfields,
e.g., Babie Doly or Babice, report collisions of planes with Eurasian Kestrels.
These are the birds which feed on prey on runways (personal information: Oraczewski
J., Kaminska M.). Well-known are also the collisions with Gulls, particularly
at the airfields located in the vicinity of big river valleys (e.g., Deblin
or Modlin) and the regions of northern and western Poland abundant in wetlands
(Cwiklak et al., 2009; Kitowski
et al., 2010). Troublesome, too, is White Stork as Poland is the
nesting place of its world-largest population estimated to consist of 34-41
thousands breeding pairs (Tomialojc and Stawarczyk, 2003).
Collisions of planes with White storks have been noted in Poland during the
last 40 years (Milkiewicz, 1967; Dzik
and Kiernicki, 2005). In 1993 a TS Iskra jet collided with a White Stork,
the plane was severely damaged. Another TS Iskra hit a White Stork in 1999 over
the Deblin airport, also reporting damages. Also, other big mass birds included;
Cranes Grus grus, Bean Goose Anser fabalis, Mute Swans Cygnus
olor, generated posibilites of collisions (Kitowski et
al., 2009) This airport records collisions with Black-headed Gulls as
well (Kitowski et al., 2010).
Papp (1996) observes that in the years 1960-1996 birds
caused 67 collisions with the aircrafts of Hungarian Air Forces. In 6 cases
the offenders were identified; these were Mallards, European Starlings, Wood
Pigeons and Collared Doves Streptopelia decaocto. At the airfield in
Taszar (S Hungary) in 1960 a Mig 15 S jet collided with Imperial Eagles Aquila
heliaca. In 1984 at the same airfield a Mig 21 fighter collided with a Bean
Goose, causing the death of one of the two pilots.
Eastern Baltic States (Lithuania and Estonia): The offenders were identified
in the case of 33 collisions of civil aircrafts with birds which took place
in the years 1958-78 Lithuania (Zalakevicus 1994). 27.3%
of them involved Ravens Corvus corax, Jackdaws, Rooks and Hooded Crows.
The following 21.2% were attributed to Domestic Pigeons. Herring Gulls and Black-headed
Gulls caused 18.2% of accidents. Only 2 (6.1%) events involved unidentified
raptors Kite Milvus sp. and Buzzard Buteo sp. Similarly, two
civil aircrafts each were in danger of striking Barn Swallows, Partridges, Common
Starlings and Swifts and one plane did hit an unidentified duck (Zalakevicus,
Shergalin (1990, 1992) sums
the data on over 350 strike events in Estonia in the years 1951-1991. The collisions
were mostly caused by Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Common Gulls which
were responsible for 57% of accidents. Skylarks and Swallows took part in only
ca. 20% of collisions. Geese and Ducks (including Ducks of the genus Anas
sp.) stood behind 4% of events. Birds like diurnal and nocturnal raptors, Ravens,
Grey Partridges, Northern Lapwings, Common Swifts and Pigeons Columba
sp. or Doves Streptopelia sp. were involved in fewer than 5 % of analysed
accidents. Worth noticing as well are the collisions with Black Grouses Tetrao
tetrix. The collision of a Soviet supersonic jet Mig 17 class with a Common
Crane near Tallin in April 1966 was also widely commented, as it resulted in
the death of the pilot (Russell, 2002).
Countries of Southern Europe: Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Italy and Spain:
Out of the 70 birdstrikes of Bulgarian aircrafts in the years 1974-1981, in
18 cases the offending species were identified (Nankinov,
1982). In 6 (33.3%) cases these were White Storks, in 4-Herring Gulls and
in 2-Jackdaws. One collision each was attributed to such taxons as Rock Pigeon
Columba livia, Wood Pigeon, Ring-necked Pheasant, Partridge, Duck of
the genus Anas sp. and Sparrow Passer sp. There is no recent data
from Bulgaria, e.g., on the well-known collision in January 1997 when in the
Air Base Dobritch (NE Bulgaria) a jet Mig 21 class crashed after flying into
a flock of Wood Pigeons.
Croatia reported 36 birdstrikes in 2007. In 10 cases only the cause of the
collision has been identified. Seven of them involved Herring Gulls and Yellow-legged
Gulls Larus michahellis, the remaining three were caused by European
Starlings, Barn Swallows and Goshawks (BSCC 2008). In
2008, the offending species were identified in 35 cases. Herring Gulls, Yellow-legged
Gulls and Black-headed Gulls were responsible for 37.1% of accidents. Fewer
collisions were provoked by Owls Strigiformes and Falcons Falco
sp.: 17.1 and 14.3%, respectively. In 4 cases (11.4%) the machines hit Swallows
and 2 times each they collided with Buzzards Buteo sp. and Corvids. Moreover,
isolated collisions involved Starlings, Grey Herons and unmarked Ducks (BSCC.,
Nikolaidis (2003) presents data on 55 birdstrikes that
took place in Greece in the years 1999-2000. The highest percentage of events
(25-45.5%) was provoked by Gulls, in one case definitely involving Black-headed
Gulls. In 25.5% of accidents the perpetrators turned out to be Swallows Hirundinidae
and in one case it was possible to identify Barn Swallows. Five (9.1%) of collisions
were caused by family finches Fringillidae and by diurnal raptors, including
Vultures. Three (5.4%) birdstrikes involved Pigeons. In single cases the collisions
were provoked by unidentified Herons, Owls and an unmarked Partridge (Nikolaidis,
2003). A dangerous collision took place in July 1996 at the airport of Aktion
(W Greece). A Boeing E-3 Sentry (AWACS) taking off flew into a flock of Starlings
and into an unmarked diurnal raptor. The crew survived but the aircraft crashed
(Richardson and West, 2000).
Italian data for the year 2007 gathered at 27 civil airfields record 275 birdstrikes
whose offenders were determined (ENAC and BSCI, 2007).
Among them, the most numerous were Gulls (28.7%). In the majority of cases (58%)
they were unmarked; the remaining events involved Yellow-legged Gulls and Black-headed
Gulls. 24% of accidents were provoked by diurnal raptors, chiefly by Eurasian
Kestrels (86.4%). A small percentage of collisions was caused by Buzzards, Marsh
Harriers Circus aeruginosus and Montagus Harriers Circus pygargus.
Passerines were responsible for 61 (22.2%) birdstrikes, most of which (30) involved
Swallows Hirundinidae. The participation of Starlings and Sparrows Passer
sp. was 3 times smaller than that of Swallows. Other passerines, smaller in
size, took part in 1-2 collisions. Corvids were represented by 6 individuals
of Hooded Crows. Among the remaining species, worth noticing are Pigeons (9.8%).
Owls took part in 20 accidents, locally posing considerable danger, e.g., at
the Trapani Airfield in Sicily. At this particular airport Little Owls Athene
noctua caused half of all the birdstrikes. In Italy, the participation of
Common Swifts in the collisions was small (ca. 3%), just as was the case of
Herons Ardeide (2.2%). Waders, represented by Lapwings and Eurasian Stone Curlews
Burhinus oedicnemus, caused a very small percentage of accidents (1.5%)
in Italy. Ring-necked Pheasants close the list of collisions, being responsible
for only 2 (<1%) birdstrikes with planes. Recent data from 2009 mention two
feral pigeons which damaged an aircraft at the Bologna airfield. Other data
point to Yellow-legged Gulls as the cause of several serious collisions at the
airfields of Florence and Naples.
Spain plays the leading role as the chief European habitat of Eurasian Griffon
Vulture Gyps fulvus, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus, Egyptian
Vulture Neophron percnopterus and Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus
(Heath et al., 2000). Hence, the most serious birdstrikes
there involve vultures. In 1964 the aircrafts AISA I115 and F-86 Sabre class
collided with them. In 1976 a Dornier Do 27 hit a vulture, just as in 1994,
when a fighter aircraft F-18A hit another vulture over the military airfield
Bardenas (W Spain) (Chamorro and Clavero, 1994). Manueco
(1992) reported that in the years 1987-1991 fourteen collisions of military
jets with vultures took place. In the years 1992-1994 two jets were damaged
by Eurasian Griffon Vultures (Chamorro and Clavero, 1994).
In July 1996 at the airport of Pamplona, a Robin DR380 crashed after colliding
with a Griffon Vulture, killing 3 people (Thorpe, 2003;
2005). We have also data on 7 further birdstrikes with
Little Bustards Otis tetrax in 1968 (Chamorro and
Clavero, 1994). The record from 1984 describes the collision of a jet Northrop
F-5 A class with unidentified Ducks over the wetland National Park Tablas de
Daimiel (C Spain) (Richardson and West, 2000). At the
airport of Ibiza (Balearic Islands) in 1980 a DC-9 with 120 passengers on board
hit a flock of Gulls. In 1990 the same airport witnessed the collision of a
CON-AIR Airbus-300 with 220 passengers on board with two Gulls. The latter cases
were the result of an unprecedented increase in the local population of Audouin's
Gulls Larus audouinii, Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls (Chamorro
and Clavero, 1994).
Geographical trends in birdstrikes: Summing up, it is easily noticed
that Gulls play the most important role as a source of danger for aircrafts
in British Islands and in the coastal parts of the continent. In northern parts
of Europe the danger is posed by Common Gulls, Herring Gulls and in the south
by Yellow-legged Gulls and Vultures. In western and central Europe, apart from
Gulls (Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls) the danger of birdstrikes is connected
with diurnal raptors (Kestrels, Buzzards), Corvids and Storks. On the one hand,
such species as Norther Lapwings, European Starlings, Pigeons, Swallows, Swifts,
Black-headed Gulls, Eurasian Kestrels and European Starlings seem to create
a real danger for planes all over the continent. Due to the abundance of wetlands,
the airtraffic in the north of Europe is jeopardized by the increase in the
number and range of big flocky wildflows such as Geese or Swans. Fortunately,
the all-year-round presence of Corvids at airfields, on the other hand, does
not seem to influence the participation of these birds in birdstrikes.
Deterrence of birds: Europe employs a number of methods to keep birds
off the airfields. One of the most common is falconry. Spain and the UK have
been particularly good at it, successfully chasing off the airfields such species
as Eurasian Stone-curlews, Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa, Lapwings,
Gulls, Pigeons, Corvids and European Starlings (Ericson
et al., 1990; Chamorro and Clavero, 1994).
In Poland, falconry brings good results in the deterrence of Corvids, European
Starlings, Lapwings and Gulls (Kitowski et al., 2010).
Other European airports, too, use trained raptors to chase away unwanted birds
(Kuzir and Muzinic, 1999). Most commonly employed for
that purpose are trained Peregrines Falco peregrinus, Sakers Falco
cherrug and Goshawks (Ericson et al. 1990;
Chamorro and Clavero, 1994; Kitowski
et al., 2010).
Radiocontrolled models are an interesting alternative to falconry. Presently,
the Italian radiocontrolled model FALCO ROBOT GBRS®, particularly
efficient in the dispersal of large flocks of birds, seems to be the most advanced
project (Battistoni, 2003, 2007;
Battistoni et al., 2008). The use of lasers is
also being developed; they are used to deter Gulls, Ducks, Waders, Pigeons and
Corvids from airfields and communal roosts located near them in the UK, France,
Netherlands and Italy (Briot and Bataille, 2003; Mens,
2006; DGAC., 2008).
Starting from the 1950s British airfields (Brough and Bridgman,
1980) and recently German ones (Schmid and Matthaus,
2005; Morgenroth and Pfeleging, 2006), began to
implement the so-called Long Grass Policy (LPG) project. It aims to control
the height of plants overgrowing the airfields in order to effectively curb
the presence of birds (Deacon and Rochard, 2000). The
long grass policy assumes that tall plants (i.e., taller than 15-25 cm) can
seriously limit the birds possibilities of finding food, their social
contacts and the detection of predators (Deacon and Rochard,
2000). The LGP has been particularly effective at reducing the numbers of
Northern Lapwings, Eurasian Kestrels, Black-headed Gulls, European Starlings,
Golden Plovers and Herons (Brough and Bridgman, 1980;
Schmid and Matthaus, 2005; Morgenroth
and Pfeleging, 2006).
One of the major problems of European airfields is the presence of invertebrates
(earthworms Lubricidae, beatles Coleoptera, etc.) attracting especially
Gulls. A range of chemical and biological products is used to repel them by
infecting them with their natural enemies (Aas et al.,
2008; Stenman et al., 2007). Special drainpipes
installed near the runways are one of the alternatives to the abovementioned
method. In contrast to Israel or the USA, Europe does not seem to use dogs of
the Border collie breed, or to implement translocation projects (Carter,
2000a, b; Cummings et al.,
2002; Anderson and Osmek, 2005). Exceptional in
this respect are Dutch air bases, where a successful project of translocating
raptors has been carried out (Dekker, 2009).
European airfields use more invasive methods, too. Shooting seems to reduce
the number of Gulls and Corvids (Dahl, 1984; Kuzir
and Muzinic, 1999; Von Ramin, 2008), but it fails
completely in the case of Eurasian Kestrels (Stenman et
al., 2007). Apart from shooting, some European airfields have resorted
to the destroying of nesting places and breeding habitats of birds (Heighway,
1969; Dahl, 1984; Stenman et
al., 2007; Weitz 2003). Distress calls and pyrotechnics
have also been employed to disperse larger groups of birds (Dahl,
1984; Briot, 1987; Mens, 2006;
Stenman et al., 2007).
Future challenges: Just as other species, large wetland birds such as
Geese, Swans and Herons tend to increase their population and range. This increase
may in future generate problems similar to those posited presently by Canadian
Geese in the USA and Canada. Interestingly, the latter species has been considerably
increasing its numbers in Europe, too (Burfield and van Bommel,
2004). The safety of many airfields is further complicated by the attitude
of local governments which arbitrarily locate large waste dumps in their vicinity.
It is a common problem for the airports in both East-European undeveloped countries
and in other more developed countries, too (Krupka, 2000;
Dzik and Kiernicki, 2005; Stenman
et al., 2007). Another danger is produced by breeders of domestic
pigeons living near the airports (Krupka, 2000; Kitowski
et al., 2010). Finally, the operation of airports near important
wildfowl refuges protected by the law in accordance with the NATURA 2000 programme,
is a still ongoing problem far from being solved.
The study was supported by grant N305-O/0007/32 of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education.
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