Date of this Version
McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) experiences a unique bird/aircraft hazard problem with migrating common nighthawks from August to October. Nighthawks are the most commonly struck species at McConnell AFB, representing about 38% of reported bird/aircraft strikes. During August and September, nighthawks represented 82% of the bird strikes found on the airfield. Approaches for managing nighthawks on and around airfields are limited because of the night environment, logistics and an incomplete understanding of nighthawk behavior. We determined the number of nighthawks using McConnell AFB and associated foraging, loafing and roosting areas, analyzed their food habits, and developed a translocation management strategy to reduce hazards to aircraft. During 1998, 1999 and 2000, we observed 600, 540 and 920 nighthawks, respectively, on the airfield. The greatest activity on the airfield occurred from September 27-30 in 1998, September 9- 14 in 1999, and September 6-8 in 2000. The peak number of nighthawks observed using the airfield during these periods was 142, 90 and 118, respectively. Nighthawks foraged around the airfield mainly between 1800 and 2200 and usually roosted on the airfield about 1800 with a peak between 2200 and 0200. During one 2-hour survey period in 1999 and 2000, 37 and 59 nighthawks, respectively, were flushed from the airfield. Thirty-seven nighthawks collected during the study consumed mostly corn earworm moths (Noctuidae) and beetles (Scarabaeidae). Management of nighthawks on McConnell AFB has been difficult because commonly used hazing techniques seem to be ineffective; these birds usually return to the same roosting location after being flushed, which can present an even greater risk to aircraft. We developed and evaluated a unique technique for capturing and translocating nighthawks from the airfield. Only 1 of 214 nighthawks translocated 88 km from McConnell AFB returned. Nighthawk/aircraft strikes at McConnell AFB declined from 9 in 1998, when no translocation was conducted, to 0 in 1999 and 3 in 2000.