Using Prairie Grass to Prevent Bird Strikes
Conservationists are sure to give the thumbs-up to a new plan being implemented by Dayton International Airport in Montgomery County, Ohio, to plant prairie grass at airports in an effort to prevent birds colliding with airplanes. The reasoning behind the strategy is that large birds, such as geese, which can cause significant damage in a bird strike, tend to steer clear of tall grasses which may conceal predators, so planting prairie grasses in strategic places, such as takeoff and landing paths may keep the birds away from these areas.
Similar measures have met with some success at Dresden International Airport in Saxony, Germany, where grass has been left to grow long for most of the year. As they are unable to detect their prey in the longer grass, raptors no longer see the area as viable hunting grounds. Records reveal that there has been a notable and continuous decline in the number of bird species involved in bird strikes at Dresden International Airport.
In an effort to minimize noise pollution and for safety reasons, airports generally have large areas of unused land around their runways. Add to this the fact that airports are most often placed on the outskirts of urban centers, and it’s easy to see why they are attractive to birds, many of which may have been displaced by urban encroachment. Airport management teams around the world continue to investigate the best ways to prevent birds and airplanes colliding. Deterrent measures include recorded predator calls, sonic cannons or similar noise generating equipment to scare birds off, as well as trained falcons and dogs to take on the role of predator. Habitat modifying methods include using insecticides to kill off food sources that attract insect-eating birds (with obvious risks to the wellbeing of the birds), covering nearby ponds and wetlands with nets to discourage waterfowl, removing shrubs and trees that may provide nesting sites, and removing seed-bearing plants.
The Dayton International Airport plans to plant prairie grasses on up to 300 acres of its 2,200 acres of open space by the end of the year. Additional advantages of the prairie grass is its capacity for absorbing carbon dioxide, its ability to prevent water runoff and the fact that it only needs to be mowed every three years. Hopefully, these measures will achieve the desired results in preventing bird strikes.