Date of this Version
Wildlife Society Bulletin 41(3):424–433; 2017; DOI: 10.1002/wsb.804
Wetlands with associated avifauna can pose a substantial hazard to aviation safety, potentially increasing bird–aircraft collision (strike) risk when located near air operations areas.We modeled year-round use by wetland avifauna of Drummond Flats Wildlife Management Area (Drummond Flats), a wetland complex located within 10 km of Vance Air Force Base (AFB), Enid, Oklahoma, USA. Our objectives were to 1) quantify seasonal avifauna abundances at Drummond Flats; 2) test a priori models reflecting use by bird species recognized as hazardous to aviation safety relative to environmental factors including flooded wetland habitat and vegetation cover; 3) use these models to predict maximal expected abundances of wetland avifauna during flood conditions; and 4) compare our findings with reported bird strikes at Vance AFB. Drought conditions influenced avian use during our study. Of the species expected to respond predictably to flooded wetland habitat, only ducks (Anatinae) occurred in numbers conducive to modeling. Using zero inflated Poisson models, we found that duck abundance was positively associated with permanent wetland habitat type and, excluding winter, available habitat area (i.e., standing water); whereas, >50% vegetation cover was negatively correlated with abundance. No model predicted >97.2 ducks/ha for any habitat type, except during winter. Our models also identified potential peaks in abundance not evident from raw count data, emphasizing the benefits of this approach. Identifying factors driving abundances also enables targeted management of hazardous species. Further, we found double-sampling to be a practical method for assessing detection bias during avian surveys at wetlands. Restricting to obligate wetland species associated with Drummond Flats, we found 1 strike/184,212 flight-hours, which was an order of magnitude lower than the average for U.S. civil aircraft (1990–2014). Thus, under drought conditions, bird use of Drummond Flats likely did not elevate strike risk for Vance AFB aircraft operations.