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Evaluation of Bird Response to Propane Exploders in an Airport Environment

  • Author(s): Washburn, Brian E.
  • Chipman, Richard B.
  • Francoeur, Laura C.
  • et al.
Abstract

Bird-aircraft collisions (bird-strikes) cause serious safety hazards to aircraft, costing civilian aviation at least $496 million annually in the U.S. Non-lethal bird-frightening devices, such as propane exploders, are commonly used to deter birds from airport environments. We conducted a study during August - October 2004 to determine the efficacy of propane exploders utilized with and without concurrent lethal reinforcement activities for altering bird behavior at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. Two groups of 8 propane exploders each were deployed on the airfield. One group of propane exploders was set to “off” (control), whereas the other group was programmed to activate at 15-minute intervals (treatment). This pattern was reversed each week for a 12-week period. In addition, lethal control activities to reduce gull-aircraft collisions were conducted during August and September 2004. We conducted bird observations associated with propane exploders during the lethal control program (8-week period) and following the end of the program (4-week period). The number of bird flocks (≥1 birds) that were within 150 m of treatment (n = 432) and control (n = 442) propane exploders was similar. Simultaneous lethal control activities at the airport did not alter the effectiveness of the propane exploders. Birds responded (e.g., altered flight path) on 3 of 21 (14.3%) occasions when a bird flock was within 150 m of a treatment propane exploder that activated. Our findings suggest propane exploders used in this manner in this airport environment do not significantly alter birds behavior or reduce the threat of bird-strikes. Future research is needed to evaluate techniques such as motion-activated propane exploders to enhance the effectiveness of this tool to reduce wildlife hazards at airports.

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