U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Applied Geography 35 (2012) 53-59; doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2012.05.002


In the United States, black vulture (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) pose significant birdstrike risks to aircraft. Understanding flight behaviors of vultures in and around military and civilian airfields is necessary to alleviate these risks. Using satellite telemetry data collected from 11 black vultures and 7 turkey vultures equipped with Global Positioning System backpack harness technology, we collected data on location and altitude near the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in Beaufort, South Carolina from September 2006 to September 2008. We used military aircraft flight landing patterns to visualize a new concept, a flight altitude cone of depression (FACOD), which models a three-dimensional flight pattern over the airfield. We then identified areas in and around MCAS where vulture flight paths penetrated the FACOD and locations of vultures were proximate to flight approach routes that posed potential risk to aircraft for a birdstrike. Combining altitude of in-flight locations of vultures or other species with three-dimensional flight patterns of aircraft provides a novel method for managers of military and domestic airfields to assess birdstrike risk and to focus corrective actions.

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