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


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Document ADA385711, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Service (NTIS): Migrating Birds Know No Boundaries. Proceedings of the International Seminar on Birds and Flight Safety in the Middle East, April 25-29, 1999, Tel-Aviv University


U.S. Government Work


The collision of birds with aircraft is a serious problem at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFKIA), New York. Gulls (Larus spp.) accounted for 86% of bird strikes (an aircraft striking >1 bird) from 1988-1990, averaging 260 strikes/year. Laughing Gulls (L. atricilla) are present from May- September in association with a protected nesting colony in Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to the airport. The colony increased from 15 nests in 1979 to 7,629 nests in 1990. During the 1970s and 1980s, JFKIA implemented various management activities to reduce gull strikes, including maintenance of tall grass, improved sanitation, drainage of standing water, and increased harassment. These programs, although beneficial as part of an integrated bird management program, did not result in reduced numbers of gull strikes. A specific program to reduce gull strikes was undertaken from May-August 1991-1998 in which 2-5 people stationed on airport boundaries shot gulls flying over the airport. In 7,159 person-hours of shooting, 55,452 gulls were killed (2,263-14,866/year), comprised of 50,521 Laughing Gulls and 4,931 other gulls (L. argentatus, L. marinus, L. delawarensis). The number of aircraft striking gulls declined to a mean of 68.4/year in 1991-1995, a 74% reduction compared with the mean of 259.7 strikes/year for 1988-1990. As a result of the shooting program, the overall bird strike rate declined at JFKIA but the proportion of strikes caused by non-gull species increased, from 14% in 1988-1990 to 39% in 1991-1995. To further reduce strikes by gulls and other species and to minimize the need to shoot gulls, JFKIA implemented an experimental falconry program in 1996-1998. Falconry has provided positive publicity for JFKIA and additional personnel on the airport to disperse birds. However, a statistical analysis of strike data did not indicate falconry reduced the strike rate below levels achieved during the shooting program in 1991-1995. In 1996-1998, when shooting and falconry were both active, the mean gull strike rate (57.3/ year) was similar to the rate recorded in 1991-1995 (68.4/year). Strikes by non-gull species increased in 1996-1998 ( = 85.3/year) compared to 1991- 1995 (43.0/year). Non-gulls comprised 60% of all bird strikes, 1996-1998. The number of gulls killed/person-hour of shooting was highest in 1991- 1992, the first 2 years of the shooting program, but did not differ (P > 0.05) among years from 1993-1998. JFKIA, located in a bird-rich coastal environment, has developed innovative programs to reduce strikes by various bird species whose dynamic populations present ever-changing challenges. A new component of these integrated programs should be the relocation of the nearby gull nesting colony to a site away from JFKIA.

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