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


Date of this Version

February 2002


Wildlife-aircraft collisions (wildlife strikes) pose safety risks to aircraft and cost civil aviation over $390 million annually in the USA. We reviewed the results of prior studies to summarize the vegetation management techniques that have proven effective for wildlife strike reduction or have shown potential for achieving the same goal. Habitat components that may affect wildlife use of airports include food, cover, water, and loafing areas. Improperly managed natural and ornamental vegetation on airports can be important attractants for wildlife that pose strike hazards. However, effective vegetation management can reduce these hazards. Maintaining tall herbaceous vegetation may reduce the availability or attractiveness of loafing and feeding sites for some species of birds such as gulls. However, this management strategy may also increase cover and food resources for other hazardous species. Thus, optimum vegetation height management strategies require further research and may be site-specific. Food availability may be reduced by replacing attractive vegetation such as palatable forage with less attractive vegetation. Vegetation management may also include removal of vegetative cover for deer and small mammals and nesting sites for birds such as woody vegetation. Removal of ornamental trees and shrubs may also be used to reduce availability of perches for flocking birds and large predatory birds. Despite more than 30 years of substantive discussion on the importance of these habitat management techniques, few reliable studies of the effectiveness of these techniques have been conducted. Specific needs for reliable data include definitive studies of the response of entire bird communities to vegetation height management in the USA, and field evaluations of vegetation types thought to be unattractive to wildlife under operational airport conditions.