Psychology, Department of


Tracking Canada geese near airports: using spatial data to better inform management

Ryan J. Askren, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Brett E. Dorak, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
Heath M. Hagy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Michael W. Eichholz, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Brian E. Washburn, National Wildlife Research Center
Michael P. Ward, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Document Type Article

Human–Wildlife Interactions 13(2):344–355, Fall 2019 •


The adaptation of birds to urban environments has created direct hazards to air transportation with the potential for catastrophic incidents. Bird–aircraft collisions involving Canada geese (Branta canadensis; goose) pose greater risks to aircraft than many bird species due to their size and flocking behavior. However, information on factors driving movements of geese near airports and within aircraft arrival/departure areas for application to management are limited. To address this need, we deployed 31 neck collar-mounted global positioning system transmitters on Canada geese near Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, USA during November 2015 to February 2016. We used the movement data obtained to model environmental and behavioral factors influencing the intersection of goose movements (i.e., transition from 1 location to another) with air operations areas (i.e., aircraft flight paths). Of 3,008 goose movements recorded, 821 intersected a 3-km buffer around the airport representing U.S. Federal Aviation Administration recommended distances from wildlife attractants, and 399 intersected flight paths for approaching and landing aircraft. The effects of weather (i.e., snow cover, temperature, wind speed) on the probability of geese flying varied with different air operation areas while certain habitat resources greatly increased the probability of intersection. For example, the juxtaposition of foraging (railyards with spilled grain) and loafing areas (rooftops) near the airport led to a higher probability of movements intersecting important air operations areas. The average altitude of flying geese was 29.8 m above the ground, resulting in the greatest risk of collision being within 0.5 km of the end of runways. We suggest airport goose collision mitigation management actions, such as reducing habitat resources near the airport and using focused nonlethal harassment or physical modifications, when guided by animal movement data, may further mitigate birdstrike risks.