Rising bird populations threaten airports

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–Flight safety authorities should heighten their vigilance as the populations of birds of prey and large birds around the country’s airports swell, an aviation safety advocacy group warned yesterday.

A total of 159 bird strikes were reported last year, a four-year high, the Flight Safety Foundation-Taiwan (FSFT) said in a report, adding that 28 of the collisions caused damage to aircraft.

The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TIA) reported the largest number of bird strikes last year with 64 in all, according to the report. The involvement of more species of birds of prey in a large number of such incidents around the TIA is a cause for concern, the FSFT said, noting that bird strikes involving nighthawks and fish hawks have been reported yearly over the last few years.

The report blames a pond off one end of an abandoned navy airstrip adjacent to the TIA and an earth and muck dump within it for the creation of habitats for the two species.

The number of bird strikes around the TIA involving such large birds as crested serpent eagles and crested goshawks also is increasing, according to the report.

While the night hawks tend to gather in and around the navy airstrip in the daytime, the well-lit TIA draws insects, nighthawks and fish hawks at night, the report says, adding that Songshan International Airport in downtown Taipei is relatively free from the threat of bird strikes involving birds of prey and large birds, although the presence of a large number of stray pigeons remains a problem and potential threat. In Taichung, the tracts of farmland existing within the bounds of the airport are blamed for the occurrence of a considerable number of bird strikes involving nighthawks and other species around the local airport.

According to the FSFT report, the black-winged kite, a prolific species normally found in the offshore island of Kinmen, has been attracted to the airport in Taichung over the last few years, where they could become a new hazard for airplanes that take off and land there. The ring-necked pheasant, another large bird, has also been seen several times crossing the taxiway at the Taichung Airport, the report said.

The increasing presence of such birds around the country’s airports may have been caused by the destruction of their original natural habitats as a result of excessive land development.