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A review of falconry as a bird control technique with recommendations for use at the Shuttle Landing Facility, John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA

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Falconry has been proposed as a method of reducing the bird/aircraftstrike hazard, in addition to current bird control techniques, at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, U.S. Bird control programs using falconry have been employed at a number of military and commercial airfields in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Most falconry programs have been discontinued. In most situations, falconry did not prove cost effective when compared to alternative bird control techniques. Available literature and documents, as well as several raptor specialists and military personnel, suggest that falconry may be useful only against certain problem species and when other bird control methods have been proven inadequate. Because many of the most commonly used falcons are protected species, acquisition of falcons will complicate their use in bird control programs. Many avian species found at the SLF are federally and state protected or of conservation concern, therefore, environmental impacts may also result from the use of falcons.
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A Review of Falconry as a Bird Control
Technique with Recommendations for
Use at the Shuttle Landing Facility,
John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, U.S.A.
The Bionetics Corporation and Archbold Biological Station
(NASA-TM-110142) A REVIEW OF
FALCONRY AS A BIRD CONTROL
TECHNIQUE WITH RECOMMENDATIONS FOR
USE AT THE SHUTTLE LANGING
FACILITY, JOHN F. KFNNECY SPACE
CENTER, FLORIDA, USA (NASA.
Kennedy Space Center) 47 p
N95-27859
Unclas
G3/03 0050091
Technical Memorandum 110142 June 1994
A Review of Falconry as a Bird Control
Technique with Recommendations for
Use at the Shuttle Landing Facility,
John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, U.S.A.
Vickie L. Larson, Sean P. Rowe, David R. Breininger, The Bionetics Corpooration,
Kennedy Space Center, FL
Reuven Yosef, Scientific Consultant, Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, FL
Technical Memorandum 110142 June 1994
A Review of Falconry as a Bird Control Technique with
Recommendations for Use at the Shuttle Landing Facility,
John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, U.S.A.
June 1994
A Review of Falconry as a Bird Control Technique with
Recommendations for Use at the Shuttle Landing Facility,
John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, U.S.A.
Vickie L. Larson
Sean P. Rowe
David R. Breininger
The Bionetics Corporation
Mailcode BIO-2
Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899
and
Reuven Yosef, Ph.D.*
Scientific Consultant
Archbold Biological Station
P.O. Box 2057
Lake Placid, FL,
*Current Address
International Ornithological Center Eilat
P.O. Box 774
Eilat, 88000, ISRAEL
June 1994
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLEOFCONTENTS...............................................................................................................2
ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................................3
LISTOF TABLES..........................................................................................................................4
LISTOF FIGURES........................................................................................................................4
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............................................................................................................. 5
INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................... 5
Falconry .......................................................................................................................................... 5
Falcon Biology .............................................................................................................................. 7
Target Species for Bird Control Using Falconry ..................................................................... 7
METHODS ..................................................................................................................................... 9
Literature Search .......................................................................................................................... 9
Potential Target Species for Falcons at the Shuttle Landing Facility ............................... 10
RESULTS .................................................................................................................................... 10
Bird Control Programs ............................................................................................................... 10
Great Britain .................................................................................................................... 10
Scotland ........................................................................................................................... 11
Netherlands ..................................................................................................................... 12
Spain ................................................................................................................................ 13
France .............................................................................................................................. 13
United States Air Force-Europe .................................................................................. 14
Canada ............................................................................................................................ 15
United States Air Force-U.S ......................................................................................... 17
Summary of Falconry Programs .................................................................................. 18
Bird/Airdcraft Hazards at the Shuttle Landing Facility .................................................... 20
Potential Target Species for Falcons at the Shuttle Landing Facility ............................... 23
General Morphology ...................................................................................................... 23
Activity Patterns .............................................................................................................. 23
Seasonal Occurrence ................................................................................................... 26
DISCUSSION ............................................................................................................................. 31
Bird Control Using Falcons ...................................................................................................... 31
Application of Falcons in Bird Control at the Shuttle Landing Facility ............................. 33
Ciconiiformes .................................................................................................................. 33
Vultures ............................................................................................................................ 34
Charadriiformes .............................................................................................................. 36
Migratory Passerines ..................................................................................................... 37
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS .................................................................... 37
LITERATURE CITED .................................................................................................................. 41
2
PI_ECEDtP_ PAGE BI..APlK NOT FII..ME_
ABSTRACT
Falconry has been proposed as a method of reducing the bird/aircraft strike
hazard, in addition to current bird control techniques, at the Shuttle Landing Facility
(SLF), John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, U.S. Bird control programs
using falconry have been employed at a number of military and commercial airfields in
the U.S., Canada and Europe. Most falconry programs have been discontinued. In
most situations, falconry did not prove cost effective when compared to alternative bird
control techniques. Available literature and documents, as well as several raptor
specialists and military personnel, suggest that falconry may be useful only against
certain problem species and then only when other bird control methods have been
proven inadequate. Because many of the most commonly used falcons are protected
species, acquisition of falcons will complicate their use in bird control programs. Many
avian species found at the SLF are federally and state protected or of conservation
concern; therefore, environmental impacts may also result from the use of falcons.
3
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1. Summary of species targeted by falconry programs ........................................... 19
Table 2. Bird/aircraft strikes at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF),
John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida (1983-1992) ........................................................ 21
Table 3. Potential target species for falconry at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF),
John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida ............................................................................... 22
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1. Mean mass of avian prey species that are depredated by female falconiform
species used in falcon bird control programs. Lines represent the range in mean mass
of avian prey species ................................................................................................................. 24
Figure 2a. Mean number of birds per sample of vultures, waders, and plovers from
February to June 1993 at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), John F. Kennedy Space
Center, Florida ................................................................. ........................................................... 27
Figure 2b. Mean number of birds per sample of Tree Swallows
(Tachycineta bicolor) from February to June 1993 at the Shuttle Landing Facility
(SLF), John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida .................................................................. 29
4
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This study was conducted under NASA contract NAS10-11624. Thanks to the
personnel at the Shuttle Landing Facility for their support, especially T.K. Gwin, J.
Walston, and R. Feile. Thanks to William M. Knott, III, Chief, Biological Research and
Life Support Office, and Burton Summerfield, Pollution Control Officer, Biomedical
Operations and Research Office, for their guidance. Helpful comments were provided
by Carlton Hall, Ron Schaub, and Paul Schmalzer. Valuable technical assistance was
provided by Tom J. Cade (Peregrine Fund), Sgt. Keedy (United States Air Force,
Whiteman Air Force Base), Maj. Ron Merritt (U.S.A.F., Bird/Aircraft Strike Hazard
Team), Don Meuschke (U.S.A.F., Whiteman Air Force Base), Brian Millsap (Florida
Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission), Eric Stolen (University of Central Florida),
and Brian Toland (FGFWFC).
INTRODUCTION
The purpose of this review is to identify and evaluate bird control programs that
have used falcons to reduce bird strike hazards at airfields. This review will provide
recommendations on the potential of falconry as a means of reducing potential
bird/aircraft strike hazards at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), Kennedy Space
Center (KSC), Florida, U.S.
Falconry_
For hundreds of years, birds of prey have been trained to hunt wild game and
until recently falconry was used solely for sport (Blaine 1970, Blokpoel 1976,
Woodford 1987). Since the 1940's, airfields have been experimenting with falconry to
control bird species that have been identified as hazardous to airfield operations
(Blokpoel 1976, Doughty 1976). Falconry programs use the instinctive predator ability
of these raptors to hunt and disperse problem species either solely or in combination
with traditional bird control methods.
Falconry evolved as the sport of using trained raptors for hunting wild game
(i.e., grouse, quail, pheasant, etc.). Many species of raptors have been trained for
falconry; however, falcons (family Falconidae, genus Falco), accipiters (family
Accipitridae, genus Accipiter), and buteos (family Accipitridae, genus Buteo) are most
often used (Blaine 1970, Blokpoel 1976, Woodford 1987).
Species of falcons commonly trained in falconry include the Peregrine Falcon
(Fa/co pereginus), Gyrfalcon (F. rustico/us), Prairie Falcon (F. mexicanus), and Merlin
(F. columbarius). The Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is the only accipiter
commonly used (Blaine 1970, Woodford 1987). Ferruginous Hawks (Buteo rega/is)
and Red-tailed Hawks (B. jamaicensis) are used less commonly, as are Golden
Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), which have been used by English, Chinese and
Mongolian royalty for hunting large mammals. Females of both families are the most
commonly trained because they are larger in size than males and have the ability to
capture larger prey items. Raptors used in falconry are trained on specific prey or
target species. Common training methods have the falcon return to the falconer's fist
or to a lure (Woodford 1987). However, falcons often do not return to the handler and
are retrieved by chase or the use of radio telemetry. For simplicity, the term falcon
when used in general discussion throughout this report refers to any raptor species
trained in falconry, and will not be restricted to members of the genus Falco.
6
Falcon Bioloav
Falcons (Fa/co spp.) generally utilize open country. Long, pointed wings adapt
falcons for high speed aerial pursuit. Falcons typically hunt by climbing to high
altitudes and diving upon prey either in the air or on the ground. Typical prey size of
falcons ranges from 300-500 g, and their natural diet may include a mixture of avian
and mammalian species (Sherrod 1978, Johnsgard 1990).
Accipiters (Accipiter spp.) are characterized by short, rounded wings and long,
narrow tails, that allow a high degree of maneuverability and short bursts of high
speed. Accipiters hunt in forests and woodlots, preying mainly on species of birds less
than 100 g and small mammals, and often chasing their prey through dense
vegetation (Johnsgard 1990). Goshawks, one of the larger accipiters, prey on small
mammals and bird species from 100-600 g (e.g., jays, pigeons, grouse, ducks)
(Sherrod 1978).
Buteos differ from falcons and accipiters by having broad, rounded wings
designed for maximal lift. Buteos are well adapted for soaring, but are not suited for
high speed flight. Morphological characteristics limit their capacity for pursuing prey
items. Therefore, buteos rely upon surprising prey by stooping from the air or a perch.
The larger buteos (e.g., Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks) are generally birds of
open country, inhabiting grasslands, pastures, and open woodlands. These Buteos
prey primarily on mammals and to a lesser extent on reptiles and birds (Sherrod 1978,
Johnsgard 1990).
Target SDecies for Bird Control Using Falconry
Falconry has been suggested for use at the SLF on KSC as a method of
enhancing current bird control techniques aimed at reducing bird/aircraft strike
7
hazards. Bird control operations generally approach the regulation of problembirds
by removing individuals (i.e., killing or trapping and relocating individuals) or by
dispersal (i.e.,use of scare tactics). Falconry has been used to kill and disperse birds
at airfields. Factors related to the ecology ofthe target species, suchas foraging and
loafing habits, flight patterns, alarm communications, and size must be considered
when determining the best approach for controlling birds within an airspace.
The success of the falconry bird control operation may be limited by the biology
of the target species, the biology of the falcon, and the landscape near the airfield.
Because of differences in the foraging patterns of raptors, a falconer must consider
prey species characteristics, including type and size of the prey item (Sherrod 1978)
and the landscape or preferred foraging habitat. Thus, the landscape and other
environmental features surrounding the airfield and the appropriate bird species to
target must be considered.
The landscape surrounding the SLF provides habitat for many species of birds
which may impact the safety of aircraft operations. The runways, ruderal or grass
areas and stormwater drainage systems associated with the airfield provide favorable
conditions for many avian species to forage and loaf (pers. obs.). Several species are
fedarally or state listed (Wood 1992). Avian families that use the airfield on a year-
round or seasonal basis include Threskiornithidae (e.g., White Ibis, Eudocimus a/bus,
Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus), Ardeidae (i.e., herons, egrets), Charadriidae (i.e.,
plovers), Columbidae (i.e., doves), Hirundinidae (i.e., swallows), and Emberizidae (i.e.,
blackbirds). Other species (e.g., Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura, Black Vultures,
Coragyps atratus, Ospreys, Pandion haliaetus, and Bald Eagles, Haliaeetus
/eucocephalus) using a large volume of the airspace surrounding the SLF also pose a
threat for collision with aircraft.
8
Several potential target species for falcons have been identified by SLF
personnel, bird activity investigations and by reviewing the NASA bird strike database
(1992). These include Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis),
White Ibis, Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola),
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis), Laughing Gull (L. atricil/a), Caspian Terns
(Sterna caspia), Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus
major), Common Grackle (Q. quiscula), and Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius
phoeniceus).
METHODS
Literature Search
Literature on falconry and the application of falconry in bird control programs at
airfields was compiled from numerous sources; computer databases, information
systems, bibliographies, literature reviews, and personal contacts. The RECON
database maintained by NASA was used to search for published reports on the use of
falconry for airport bird control. The following key phrases were used to locate
references pertaining to airfield bird control: aircraft hazards, birds, and bird/aircraft
hazards. The Raptor Management Information System (RMS) operated by the U.S.
Bureau of Land Management, Raptor Research and Technical Assistance Center in
Boise, Idaho was searched for references using the keywords falconry and aircraft.
Additional information was collected from references and literature cited sections of
reports and published results. Several raptor specialists and military personnel
involved in bird control programs using falconry were contacted in order to obtain
unpublished information and reports unavailable through other sources.
Potential Target Soecies for Falcons at the Shuttle Landing Facility
Because raptors have specific dietary constraints and falcons are trained on
specific bird species, it is important to understand temporal and spatial patterns in
activity and general biological characteristics of the avian community requiring control.
Data collection on avian activity and abundance at the SLF began in February 1993
and will continue through 1994. Avian activity and abundance data were collected
from seven stations. Five stations were located along the runway and one at each set
of PAPI lights approximately 7500 ft north and south of the runway. Number of birds,
species, and position of airspace occupied were recorded. Preliminary bird activity
and abundance data collected at the SLF and information on general species biology
were used to categorize potential target species for falcons. These categories are not
exclusive and species can fall into one or more categories based on diurnal, seasonal,
or general behavioral patterns. Categories include: size, airspace occupied (i.e.,
ground/near ground, traveling or soaring species) and seasonal occurrence (i.e., year-
round resident, winter resident, summer resident, or migrant).
RESULTS
Bird Control Proorams
An extensive literature search produced anumber of scientific publications,
government and miscellaneous reports or documents related to the use of falcons for
controlling birds at airfields.
tested and used at airfields.
Europe.
The following section summarizes the falconry programs
Most of these programs took place in North America and
10
Great Britain
The use of falcons for bird control was first attempted in Britain in 1947-1949
(Blokpoel 1976, DeFusco and Nagy 1983). BIokpoel (1976) and DeFusco and Nagy
(1983) reviewed work done by Wright (1963) and concluded that falcons could be
successful at reducing bird strike hazards. Wright (1963) demonstrated that daily
Peregrine Falcon flights could keep the airfield clear of birds. However, birds avoided
the airfield for only one or two days following removal of the falcon. Disadvantages to
the falconry program included high cost, limitations imposed by poor weather
conditions, and loss of falcons, due to them flying off or being accidently shot (Wright
1963).
Scotland
In 1965, a bird control program using falcons began at the Royal Naval Air
Station at Lossiemouth, Scotland. The four year program was aimed at reducing the
number of birds, primarily gulls (species not reported), using the airfield for both
roosting and nesting. An average of 650 birds could be counted on the airfield at any
one time, prior to the implementation of the control program (Heighway 1969).
Bird/aircraft collision rates were reduced from about 20 per year in 1965 to zero after
the initiation of the bird control program (DeFusco and Nagy 1983).
The bird control program employed eight Peregrine Falcons, two falconers, and
several other full time bird control personnel (Heighway 1969). The program
experienced difficulty in procuring Peregrines and required a three to four month
training period for the falcons and their handlers. The falcons reduced the number of
gulls roosting on the airfield during the day. Because falcons could only be flown in
daylight, shell crackers (i.e., pyrotechnics commonly used in bird control) were
necessary to disperse large numbers of gulls that came to roost in the evenings.
11
During the breeding season, large numbers of gulls and other species nested
on the airfield. The intense use of falcons and pyrotechnics successfully reduced the
number of gull and oystercatcher (species not reported) nests on the airfield from
several hundred in 1966 to four in 1967 (Heighway 1969). The success of this
program was not due solely to the use of falcons. Other control methods, including
shell crackers and gas cannons, used in conjunction with falcons is believed to have
contributed to its success (Heighway 1969, DeFusco and Nagy 1983).
Netherlands
The Royal Netherlands Air Force began a bird control program in 1967 using
Northern Goshawks at Leeuwarden Airbase, Netherlands. Goshawks were selected
for the program because they were less expensive and easier to acquire than falcons.
Goshawks' ground-to-ground hunting behavior reduced their interference with aircraft
and made them easier to retrieve (Mikx 1969, Defusco and Nagy 1983). The program
used one falconer, three assistants, and four to six goshawks (Slot and Mikx 1968).
Because hawks cannot be worked during molting periods, several hawks were
needed to ensure that at least one hawk would be ready to fly at all times (Slot and
Mikx 1968, Mikx 1969, Defusco and Nagy 1983). The goshawks were successful at
dispersing problem gulls (type of gull species not reported) from the airfield, and the
gulls did not appear to become habituated to the presence of the goshawks (Mikx
1969). However, gulls learned to fly ahead of the approaching falconer before the
hawk could be released, thereby staying beyond the range of the hawk (Slot and Mikx
1968). Traditional methods of bird control, such as shell crackers, were necessary to
supplement the use of the goshawks (Slot and Mikx 1968, Mikx 1969).
12
Bird strikes at the airfield decreased from 12 per year 1965-1966 to seven in
1967 and three in 1968. This program was considered an effective falconry program
(DeFusco and Nagy 1983) but has been discontinued due to high costs (Blokpoel
1976). It is difficult to determine whether the success of the bird control program was
due to the presence of the hawks or the overall increased intensity of the bird control
effort (Royal Netherlands Air Force 1969).
Spain
Blokpoel (1976) and DeFusco and Nagy (1983) reviewed results of a falconry
program using six Peregrine Falcons at Torrejon Airbase, Spain, to control Little
Bustards (species not reported). Falcons were reported as successfully dispersing all
nuisance birds after three months (Collum undated) and strikes were reduced from
nine per year to zero after the falconry program began (DeFusco and Nagy 1983).
However, even after dispersal of the bustards, falcons had to be flown daily to prevent
their return (Roddgues de la Fuente 1971).
The removal of Little Bustards from Torrejon Airbase coincided with an increase
in numbers of bustards at Barajas-Madrid civil airport five miles away (Solman 1969).
Falcon programs were introduced to control the increased numbers of bustards, as
well as Stone-curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus), and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos).
After six months, Peregrine Falcons had successfully cleared the airfield of all three
problem species (Rodrigues de la Fuente 1971).
France
The French government experimented with the use of falconry for bird control at
two military bases near Istres and Strasbourg during 1980-81 (Briot 1984). Accipiters,
trained on gulls (species not reported), reduced bird aircraft collisions from 16 in 1979
13
to zero in 1983. Falcons were used at the base near Strasbourg on species of crows
and gulls (Briot 1984).
Following the success of falconry at the French military bases, expedments
were carried out at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport during 1983-84 (Briot 1984). Six to eight
thousand wintering Crested Lapwings (species not reported) were targeted. Two
falconers flew five falcons for an hour each day. Within three months, aircraft-lapwing
encounters decreased 75% compared to the four previous years (Briot 1984). Work
from 1984-86 concluded that falconry could alleviate the lapwing problem, but lower
cost bird control methods, such as shotguns, alarm cries, and pyrotechnics, were more
appropriate (Briot 1984).
The success of falconry experiments at Toulouse-Blagnac prompted Paris'
Charles de Gaulle Airport to test a falconry program during 1985-86 (Briot 1987). The
program used four Peregrine Falcons, seven hybrid Peregrine/Gyrfalcons, and four
Northern Goshawks. After eight months, aircraft collisions with gulls, lapwings, and
pigeons (species not reported) were reduced by an estimated 60%. Reported
drawbacks to the use of falcons included: difficulty in locating falcons and falconers,
high costs, limitation related to target species, and weather and lighting constraints
(Briot 1987). Despite the success of this falconry program, three civil airfields decided
against the use of falcons and instead adopted programs using randomly broadcasted
artificial sounds, which had been shown to be as or more effective than the use of
falcons and at a reduced cost (Briot 1987).
United States Air Force -Europe
The United State Air Force (USAF) Europe initiated falconry programs at six
USAF bases in the United Kingdom (Blokpoel 1976, 1977). Three species of imported
14
falcons, Saker (F. cherrug), Lagger (F. jugged, and Lanner (F. biarmicus), made up
about 20% of the bird control effort. The remaining effort was a combination of dogs
and traditional bird scaring devices (e.g., shell crackers, live ammunition). Few
specifics are available on these programs; however, Blokpoel (1976) indicates that
falconry represented an essential element of the bird control programs. No results of
these programs have been published. Maj. Ron Merritt of the USAF Bird Aircraft Strike
Hazard (BASH) team (pers. comm.) reports that a successful program at Mildenhall Air
Base is currently operating to reduce the number of gulls using the airfield.
Canada
The Canadian Associate Committee of Bird Hazards to Aircraft (ACBHA)
commissioned experiments with falcons as a method of bird control at two airfields
during the early 1960's (Blokpoel 1976, 1977). At Victoria Airport on Vancouver
Island, British Columbia, Peregrine Falcons were flown from 1962-1964 and
Gyrfalcons from 1964-1965. The falconry program was aimed at reducing bird strike
hazards associated with large numbers of Glaucous-winged Gulls (L. glaucescens),
California Gulls (L. californicus), and Mew Gulls (L. canus). Falcons were able to
disperse gulls (Ryan 1965, Blokpoel 1976, 1977, DeFusco and Nagy 1983); however,
Blokpoel (1976) reported that gulls returned soon after the falcons quit flying. Review
of this falconry control effort by Solman (1965) recommended the use of conventional
bird control methods (e.g., shell crackers, flares, sirens) over falconry.
Tests were conducted during 1964 using Peregrine Falcons to scare Great
Black-backed Gulls (L. marinus) and Herring Gulls (L. argentatus) at Shearwater
Airport near Halifax, Novia Scotia (Blokpoel 1976, 1977). Falcons were trained to
circle above the falconer, instead of attacking the flocks of gulls. This technique
allowed for greater control of the falcons and reduced the likelihood of falcons
15
becoming injured (Blokpoel 1976, 1977). Canadian officials discontinued the use of
falcons in 1965, despite the reported successes of dispersing gulls using falconry
(Blokpoel 1976). High cost of the falconry programs, difficulty in obtaining falcons,
limitations related to the use of falcons, and the availability of less costly methods were
reasons for the programs' discontinuance (Blokpoel 1976).
In 1976, several falconry programs were reinstated in Canada under the
Ministry of Transport (MOT). A program at Vancouver International Airport used two
Peregrine Falcons, two Prairie Falcons, two Merlins, and two Gyrfalcons (Blokpoel
1977). Target species included: large flocks of Dunlin (Calidrus alpina), European
Starlings (Sturnis vulgaris), and gulls (species not reported) that occurred irregularly
on the airfield and could not be dispersed by conventional methods. Difficulties in
obtaining and training the falcons against certain target species were encountered
(Davies 1977). The program reported 95% success in dispersing birds (Davies 1977);
however, data showing a reduction in bird/aircraft strikes were not available.
Attributing any decrease in bird strikes to the falconry program was difficult because of
the initial low frequency of strikes. The program was discontinued due to high costs
and limited usefulness (Blokpoel 1977).
Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls were identified as problems at North Bay
Airport, Ontario, Canada, due to the airport's proximity to a landfill where the birds
commonly fed (Jerema 1977). The falconry program flew two Peregrine Falcons and a
Prairie Falcon daily. At the beginning of the operation (April 1977) about 600 gulls
were present at the dump and within three weeks few to no gulls were seen feeding.
The falconry program alone may not have accounted for the reduction in the number of
gulls at the dump; availability of other food sources and the onset of breeding season
may have also contributed to a reduction in their number (Blokpoel 1977). By August
16
more than 1000 gulls, both juveniles and adults, had retumed to feed at the dump
(Blokpoel 1977).
Toronto International Airport, Ontario, initiated a two-month experimental
program using two Prairie Falcons and two Gyrfalcons in September 1977 (Blokpoel
1977). Target species included gulls, crows, pigeons, ducks, and starlings (species
not reported). Other conventional bird control methods were used in conjunction with
falcons. No published results of this program could be obtained. The program is still
active and is reported to be successful at reducing the numbers of hazardous species
using the airfield (Maj. Ron Merritt pers. comm.).
United States Air Force - U.S.
In 1972, a pilot experiment using falconry was implemented at Whiteman Air
Force Base, Missouri. The program used a Red-tailed Hawk, a Ferruginous Hawk, a
Goshawk, and a Prairie Falcon in attempt to control Greater Prairie-Chickens
(Tympanuchus cupido) that were attracted to the base to breed. Only the Goshawk
was successful at dispersing the prairie-chickens, and within about six weeks the
number of prairie-chickens using the airfield dropped from 65 to 12 (Mattingly et alo
1973, Mattingly 1974, DeFusco and Nagy 1983).
As a result of the pilot study, another control program was initiated at Whiteman
Air Force Base in 1973 with intentions of developing a long-term falconry program.
Two Prairie Falcons, a Ferruginous Hawk and a German Short-haired Pointer were
employed (Mattingly 1974). Since the Prairie Falcons were useful only in good light
conditions, the Ferruginous Hawk was needed to disperse prairie-chickens around
sunrise and sunset. Only one Prairie Falcon proved effective, even though it
commonly chased other birds that flushed (e.g., meadowlarks, blackbirds). The
17
second Prairie Falcon refused to hunt and would frequently wander over the airfield.
The Ferruginous Hawk did not chase the prairie-chickens far, and the prairie chickens
quickly learned that it posed little threat (Mattingly 1974).
Mattingly (1974) reported that by the beginning of May, the falconry program
was becoming effective. Prairie-chickens were becoming "scarce," and the last
prairie-chicken was seen on June 4, i973. Mattingly (1974) indicates that prairie-
chickens were attracted to the airfield only during March, April and May, with peak
activity occurring in the last week of March. It was not clear whether the falcons or
natural activity patterns associated with breeding were responsible for fewer prairie-
chickens. Hence, the success of the falcons should be interpreted with caution since
seasonal decline attributed to habitat use was not quantitatively distinguished from the
effects of falcons. Despite the reported success of this program, the use of falcons was
discontinued in 1974. High cost of the falcon program and the effectiveness of
alternative, less costly harassment methods, including pyrotechnics and trapping and
relocation, to effectively disperse the prairie-chickens were cited as the main reasons
for discontinuation of the falcon program (D. Meuschke pers. comm.). The bird control
program now consists mainly of habitat management and intensive harassment (Sgt.
Keedy pers. comm.).
Summary of Falconry Programs
Bird control programs using falconry have targeted 12 different species of birds
using eight different falcon species (Table 1). Sixty percent of the falconry programs
reviewed used both falcons and conventional bird control techniques. Most programs
reported were considered successful; however, few bird control programs are currently
using falcons (Maj. Ron Merritt pers. comm.). Many falconry programs concluded that
traditional, less expensive methods of bird control were more appropriate in reducing
18
61
N
bird/aircraft strikes. Trouble obtaining falcons and/or falconers and limitations related
to weather and target species were also common reasons for discontinuing many of
the falcon programs.
Bird/Aircraft Hazards at the Shuttle Landino Facility
Bird/aircraft collisions at the SLF average 6.4 strikes/year from 1983-92 (NASA
1992, unpub, data). Aircraft activity at the SLF is related to Shuttle operations and
varies considerably in intensity. Air traffic by helicopters, T-38s, and Shuttle Training
Aircraft (STA) are most common since these aircraft support Shuttle Transport System
operations.
Ten different types of birds have been identified in bird/aircraft collisions at the
SLF (Table 2) (NASA 1992). Identification of species involved in aircraft strikes is
difficult. The species involved cannot be determined in about 42% of the strikes
(NASA 1992). Tree Swallows had the highest frequency of bird/aircraft strikes at the
SLF from 1983-1992. Tree Swallows and sparrows (species not reported)
represented 32.3% of all strikes (55.5% of strikes in which the type of bird was
identified) (Table 2). Plovers (species not reported) represented 6.5% of the total
strikes and are the second most frequently hit bird that can be identified. Others
species involved in bird/aircraft strikes at the SLF represent less than 5% of the total
strikes (Table 2).
A total of 23 avian species, six of which have been involved in bird/aircraft
collisions (Table 2), have been identified as potential target species for falconry at the
SLF (Table 3). Gulls are the only potential target species identified at the SLF that
have been successfully controlled in other falconry bird control programs (Table 1)
(Mikx 1969, Blokpoel 1976, 1977, Briot 1987).
20
Table 2. Bird/aircraft strikes at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), John F. Kennedy
Space Center, Florida (1983-1992). (NASA 1992)
Species/Description No. Strikes % Total
Tree Swallow
plover (species unidentified)
sparrow (species unidentified)
hawk (species unidentified)
grackle (species unidentified)
Double-crested Cormorant
Killdeer
Eastern Screech-Owl
gull (species unidentified)
egret/ibis (species unidentified)
20 32.3
4 6.5
3 4.8
2 3.2
23.2
1 1.6
1 1.6
1 1.6
11.6
1 1.6
SUBTOTAL 36 --
small unidentified 7 11.3
medium unidentified 2 3.2
unidentified 17 27.4
TOTAL 62
21
Table 3. Potential target species for falconry at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF),
John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Airspace Occupied
Ground/Near Ground
(<20 11)
Species(1 ) Seasonal Occurrence(2)
Red-winged Blackbird Y
American Robin W,M
Killdeer Y,W(3)
Common Grac.Jde Y
Boat-tailed Grackle Y
Black-bellied Plover W,M
RoyalT, ern Y,W(3)
Ring_oili_ Gull Y,W(3)
Caspian Tern W
Cattle Egret S
White Ibis Y
SUBTOTAL 11
Traveling
(>20 and <300 !t) Tree Swallow W,M
LittleBlue Heron Y
Snowy Egret Y
Tricolor Heron Y
Glossy Ibis Y
White Ibis Y
Great Egret Y
Double-crested Cormorant Y,W(3)
Great Blue Heron Y
SUBTOTAL 9
Soaring Anhinga Y
(>300 ft) Turkey Vulture Y
Black Vulture Y
Wood Stork Y
SUBTOTAL 4
TOTAL SPECIES 23
S=Summer Resident, W =Winter Resident, M =Migrant,
Y = Year-round Resident
(1) listed in order of increasing mass
(2) Robertson and Woolfenden (1993)
(3) Year-round residents with numbers increasing greatly in winter
22
Potential Target Soecies for Falcons at the Shuttle Landino Facility
Mass of prey item, prey behavior, and region of airspace occupied by target
species were used to identify potential types of falcons that may be useful. Generally,
the size of a raptor is proportional to the size of a potential prey item (Figure 1). Larger
falcons feed on a broader range of prey sizes (Blaine 1970, Sherrod 1978, Woodford
1987, Johnsgard 1990, R. Yosef pers. comm.). Potential target species were
characterized based on general morphology (i.e., mean body mass), activity patterns
(i.e., region of airspace commonly occupied) and relative seasonal occurrence (i.e.,
summer resident, winter resident, or spring/fall migrant) (Table 3).
General Morphology
General morphology (i.e., body mass) was used to characterize species to
determine the best relationship between size of target species (i.e., potential prey item)
and dietary specifications of falcons commonly used in falconry (Figure 1). Seventy
four percent of the potential target species for falconry at the SLF are >1100 g, making
them reasonable prey items for most types of falcons (Figure 1, Table 3). The
remaining 6 species are large and may only be hunted by the very large Gyrfalcon or
Peregrine falcon.
Activity Patterns
Describing activity patterns of potential target species assists in identifying types
of falcons that may be effective in controlling the species. Species that occupy low
regions of airspace (i.e., ground or near ground, <20 ft or 6.1 m) have the highest
probability of being controlled through the use of falconry. Falcons are natural
predators of many of these ground species, making them vulnerable for control by the
use of falcons (Sherrod 1978, Johnsgard 1990). Ground or near ground species make
up 92% of the species targeted by bird control programs using falconry (Table 1).
23
Figure 1. Mean mass of avian prey species that are depredated by female falconiform
species used in falcon bird control programs. Lines represent the range in mean mass
of avian prey species. (Laing 1985; graph modified from Johnsgard 1990)
24
m
--z
3-
m
(/)
(/)
o
"0
(D
c_
g
5"
Mean mass (g) of falconiform species (females)
_,_ ,_ ,_ ,_ ,_,
"10
"11
.°
Tree Swallow
Red-winged Blackl_rd
Ro_n/KZlk:leer
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Black-10_liedPlover
Cal/le EgrePiJllle Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Trioolomd Heron
Royal Tern
Glossy Ibis
Ring-billed Gull
Caspian Tern
Great Egret
Whim Ibis
Madlard
Anhinga
rurkeyVulture
Double-crested Cormorant
Black Vulture
Great Blue HerorVWood Stork
2_
Ground or near ground species make up 47.8% of the potential target species for
falconry at the SLF (Table 3). The thirteen species of traveling or soaring species are
may be more difficult to control using falconry.
Seasonal Occurrence
Seasonal occurrence was considered because large aggregations of birds
(e.g., Tree Swallows, plovers) are difficult to control and pose potentially serious risk to
aircraft (Mattingly 1974, Blokpoel 1976, NASA 1992). Spring and fall migrants
represent 69% of the bird/aircraft strikes at the SLF in which the birds have been
identified (NASA 1992, unpub, data). Migratory species make up 30% of the potential
target species for falconry at the SLF.
Examples of bird activity data collected at the SLF are given in Figure 2a and
Figure 2b. Potential target species are presented as mean bird number per sample
from February through June for vultures, waders, (e.g., Great Blue Heron, Ardea
herodias, Great Egret, Casmerodius a/bus, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Little
Blue Heron, Egretta caerula, Snowy Egret, Egretta thula, Tricolored Heron, Egretta
tricolor, Wood Stork, Mycteria americana), and plovers (e.g., Black-bellied
Plover, Killdeer). Many of the potential target species at the SLF are permanent and
winter residents (Table 3). Large numbers of migrants also use the SLF during certain
seasons (Figure 2a and 2b). Increased bird control efforts may be needed during
winter or migration because the number of birds using habitats found on KSC often
doubles (Breininger 1990, Breininger and Schmalzer 1990).
26
Figure 2a. Mean number of birds per sample of vultures, waders, and plovers from
February to June 1993at the ShuttleLanding Facility(SLF),John F. Kennedy Space
Center, Florida.
27
_J
13_
<
Z
100
0 .....
.....
IFEB MAR APR MAY JUN
MONTH
--41--
VULTURES
WADERS
PLOVERS
28
Figure 2b. Mean number of birds per sample of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor)
from February to June 1993 at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), John F. Kennedy
Space Center, Florida.
29
+
..J
13-
<
(/)
/!
1000
100
10
! ! !
FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
MONTH
30
DISCUSSION
Bird Control Using Falcons
Bird control programs using falcons were most common during the 1950's to
early 1970's. This corresponds to a time period in which falconry was popular
throughout the U.S. An extensive literature search yielded no convincing evidence
that falcons alone can provide a permanent, cost effective, successful means of bird
control. Twelve of the 20 programs reviewed (Table 1) relied on a combination of bird
control techniques that included traditional control methods, as well as falconry. The
use of falcons is considered a viable option for airfield bird control only under
circumstances when other, more conventional, control methods have proven
inadequate (Blokpoel 1976, Maj. R. Merritt pers. comm.). All of the current falconry
programs use conventional methods in addition to falcons (Maj. R. Merritt pers.
comm.).
Several references in popular literature and government documents indicate
that a falcon program can be successful; however, they rarely provide specific
information. Published reports documenting a successful falconry program are scarce
in the literature. The details of data collected for programs were not described
sufficiently. Most programs appeared to be pragmatic and were not designed to
quantify success. Published reports do not provide convincing quantitative evidence
that falcons are responsible for a reduction in the bird strike hazard. Many report
success without quantifying a reduction in bird activity or bird/aircraft collisions. When
data are presented, it is unclear whether researchers controlled for confounding
factors such as the effects of seasonal occurrence or an overall increase in the
intensity of the bird control. Most of the falcon programs have been discontinued. No
reports of falconry programs were presented at the 1992 annual meeting of the Bird
31
Strike Committee Europe (BSCE 1992). Major reportedconstraints of falconry control
programs are: 1) falcons must be flown regularly (i.e., daily) and often on a year-round
basis to be effective, 2) falcons can be used only in daylight and in good weather, 3)
falcons are frequently temperamental and uncooperative, 4) falcons must be properly
trained to specific groups of birds requiring control, 5) falcons are difficult to acquire,
maintain, and train, and 6) falconry programs are expensive (Blokpoel 1976, Doughty
1976, Briot 1987).
Falconry programs have most often b_ used to control species found foraging
or loafing on the ground or at low altitudes withinthe airspace (Table 1). Based on the
available literature, no falconry programs have attempted to control large
soaring/traveling species such as vultures and wading birds. In order for falconry to be
useful, falcons must hunt (i.e., remove individuals) or disperse problem species (i.e.,
scare them away). Target species must have a sufficient amount of fear for the raptor
to be dispersed by a falcon. The potential success of the falconry effort is increased by
using falcons to target species that are most closely related to their natural prey items.
Even though falcons are trained on specific species, these species may not be the
only ones with which the falcon interacts (Mattingly 1974, R. Yosef pers. comm.) For
this reason, falconry at the SLF has a potential environmental impact on species that
are state or federally listed or are of conservation concem.
Species found mostly on or near the ground can often be frightened
successfully from airfields using conventional bird control methods such as shotguns,
gas cannons, and noise makers (Blokpoel 1976, SLF personnel pets. comm.)
Soaring species and other large species that consistently use high altitude flight paths
from roost locations to remote foraging areas are more difficult to control (SLF
personnel pets. comm., pers. obs.). Target species with large mass will require very
32
large raptors (i.e., Gyrfalcon, Peregrine Falcon). Many falcons would be needed to
clear the airspace since these species cover alarge distance rapidly.
Aoolication of Falcons in Bird Control at the Shuttle Landino Facility
SLF personnel have indicated that four main groups of birds present the
greatest hazard to aircraft operations based on near misses and potential strikes.
These are Ciconiiformes (i.e., bittems, herons, ibises, storks), American vultures
(family Cathartidae), Charadriformes (e.g., plovers, gulls and terns), and migratory
passerines (e.g., mainly American Robins, Turdus rnigratorius, and Tree Swallows).
Ciconiiformes
Wading birds that use the lawn and ditches for foraging pose a potential threat
to SLF operations. Wading birds also pass through the SLF airspace traveling
between feeding, roosting, and nesting sites which are abundant in the vicinity of the
SLF (Smith and Breininger unpub, data). Cattle Egrets and White Ibis are the most
common waders using the perimeter lawn at the SLF. Tricolored Herons, Little Blue
Herons, White Ibis and Snowy Egrets commonly use the airspace above the SLF
(unpub. data). Wading bird populations are least abundant on KSC during winter
(Cruickshank 1980, Smith and Breininger unpub, data). Several thousand Tricolored
Herons, White Ibis, and Snowy Egrets nest in colonies on KSC (Smith and Breininger
unpub, data). Cattle Egrets are common residents throughout Florida (Robertson and
Woolfenden 1992); however, during colder winters they move south and may become
rare in the central Florida region (Cruickshank 1980).
To our knowledge, no falconry programs have specifically targeted wading
birds. For this reason, it is difficult to estimate the potential success of a falconry
program in controlling wading birds; however, several facts suggest that a successful
33
program may be limited. Herons, egrets,and ibis are relatively large birds and are not
commonly preyed upon by falcons (Sherrod 1978, Johnsgard 1990) (Figure 1). Large
falcons would be required to target wading birds and d=fficulties may be encountered
training falcons to attack these species. Waders usually travel through the airspace of
the SLF in small isolated groups (unpub. data). Although the waders pose a potential
threat to aircraft, a falcon pursuing these species may represent a greater hazard (Mikx
1969). Because of the flight characteristics of the waders, a falcon would have to work
a large area surrounding the SLF. This would require using several falcons
simultaneously. Furthermore, most wading birds on KSC are listed by either the
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) or Florida Game and Fresh Water
Fish Commission (FGFWFC) (e.g., Wood Storks are endangered). The use of falcons
to control waders could have environmental impacts given the need for falcons to
pursue and attack prey.
Vultures
Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures are both year-round resident species in
Florida. The resident breeding population of both species is supplemented in fall and
winter (November through March) by migratory individuals (Cruickshank 1980).
Further studies would be required to understand the proportions of resident and
migrant vultures in the population on KSC. Vultures are carrion eaters and road-killed
animals appear to represent a significant source of food. Both species of vultures are
regularly seen in groups up to ca. 30 individuals feeding at carcasses of dead animals
along major roadways on KSC (pers. obs.). Both species are highly gregarious,
forming large mixed groups foraging and roosting aggregations. One particularly
large roost of ca. 300 individuals is located directly in the south approach path of the
SLF. The major strike hazard resulting from this roost occurs during a mid-morning
period when a majority of the individuals leave the roost.
34
Typically, vultures leave this roost en masse at ca. three hours after sunrise,
forming large mixed-species kettles soaring upwards on thermal currents. Many
disperse searching for food and other are attracted to air patterns surrounding the
Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) (pers. obs.). During mid-day hours (ca. 1030-1600
hours), vultures are often seen on the ground foraging or loafing at carcasses along
roads and ditches. When flying or soaring during mid-day, vultures generally remain
highly dispersed over large areas and soar at altitudes above ca. 150 feet, traveling
long distances (pers. obs.). The greatest hazard presented by vultures occurs during
late morning hours when large numbers of vultures are soaring at various altitudes.
This hazard decreases after vultures have dispersed from their roosts and begin
foraging or soaring at high altitudes. Further studies of marked individuals would help
to understand vulture dispersal patterns and identify effective potential vulture control
techniques.
A falconry program targeted at vultures is unlikely to be successful. Falcons are
not natural predators of vultures; hence, vultures have little or no innate fear of falcons
or other birds of prey. A falconry program targeted at vultures will require falcons that
are specially trained to harass vultures. This will be much more difficult than training
falcons to hunt species that falcons naturally prey on or are similar in size and habits to
the falcons' natural prey (T. Cade pers. com., B. Millsap pets. com., B. Tolancl pers.
com., R. Yosef pets. comm.). It would be very difficult for afalconry team to be able to
effectively patrol the entire airspace (i.e., 1050 ha from 20-1800 ft or 6.1-548.6 m) that
could be used by vultures at any given time. Black Vultures have been documented
traveling a distance of 14 km in 30 min. (Rabenold 1987). The presence of falcons will
not deter vultures from the airspace (T. Cade pers. comm., B. Millsap pets. com., R.
Yosef pets. com.). Falcons will need to target individual vultures and other vultures in
35
the vicinity will probably not be deterred unless directly attacked. The large resident
vulture population is supplemented in winter months by migrant individuals; turnover
at vulture roost sites can approach 100% in as little as five days (E. Stolen pers.
comm.). It is unlikely that the vulture population will learn to avoid the SLF airspace to
keep from getting harassed by falcons given the large distances traveled by vultures
while searching for food.
Charadriiformes
Killdeer are year-round residents at KSC. From September through May, the
resident breeding population is enhanced by large numbers of wintering individuals
(Cruickshank 1980). Killdeer numbers peak during May when spring migrants pass
through the area (Breininger and Smith 1990). The large numbers of Killdeer that use
the lawn for foraging and the runway for loafing during the winter months present a
potential aircraft hazard; however, few individuals remain during the summer. Small
numbers of Killdeer nest within the SLF (S. Rowe, pers. obs.). Unlike the wintering
flocks of Killdeer, breeding individuals rarely use the runway and are most frequently
seen foraging in the lawn (unpub. data). Thus, bird/aircraft strike hazard associated
with resident Killdeer during the breeding season is minimal.
Black-bellied Plovers also present a significant aircraft hazard because of their
seasonal abundance. Unlike Killdeer, Black-bellied Plovers are mainly winter
residents, common September through April with small numbers remaining in the
summer (Cruickshank 1980). During winter months, large numbers of Black-bellied
Plovers use the runway and lawn for loafing and foraging (unpub. data). Black-bellied
Plovers remain on KSC in small numbers during the summer, however, from late
spring through early fall they rarely use the SLF (unpub. data).
36
Afalconry program aimed at plovers may prove successful; however, targeting
plovers using falcons is not recommended. The large expanse of open area at the
SLF attracts plovers to forage and loaf. It is likely that resident plovers will grow
accustom to the presence of a falcon, unless falcons kill plovers on a regular basis.
Black-bellied Plovers are considered species of conservation concern (Millsap eta/.
1990) and are present on KSC during most of the year. A significant (P<0.10)
decrease in Black-bellied Plovers has occurred between 1972-1983, along the U.S.
Atlantic coast migration stopovers (Howe et al. 1989). Counts of Black-bellied Plovers
in South Carolina have also indicated a decline from 1961-1988 (Marsh and
Wilkinson 1991 ). Black-bellied Plovers are one of 13 shorebird species that have
been identified as a species of management and research concern at KSC (Breininger
et al. in prep.). Additionally, Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) and Snowy Plovers
(C. alexandrius) are listed as threatened species by both the FGFWFC and USFWS
(Wood 1992) and could occur at the SLF although such occurrence would be rare.
Migratory Passerines
A falconry program aimed at the control of large flocks of migratory passerines,
most notably American Robins has the greatest chance of success. Passerines are
natural prey items for many species of raptors used in falconry (Figure 1) (Johnsgarcl
1990). Falcon control requires raptors trained to harass and kill specific target species
or related species (Blokpoel 1976). A greater chance of success can be expected
when the raptor is a natural predator of the targeted species. In natural situations,
large flocks of passerines often react to the presence of a wild falcon by flushing and
leaving the area (pers. obs.).
American Robins are abundant migrants and winter residents on KSC, present
from mid-November through mid-April. Robins generally form transient flocks that can
37
be as large as 50,000 individuals (Cruickshank 1980). It is likely that different
individuals are visiting the SLF on a daily basis. In addition, birds such as robins
frequently encounter falcons during migration. This reduces the chance of transient
birds becoming habituated to the presence of a falcon at the SLF.
Tree Swallows are migrants and winter residents on KSC, present from late
August through late April (Cruickshank 1980). These highly gregarious aerial foragers
are often seen foraging for insects over the lawn and perimeter ditches at the SLF and
are attracted to the fruiting wax myrtle (Myn'ca cerifera) that are abundant in the vicinity
of the SLF (pers. obs.). Flocks of ca. 20,000 individuals are common on KSC, and one
exceptionally large flock of ca. 250,000 individuals frequented the SLF area during the
last two weeks of April 1993 (unpub. data, SLF personnel pers. comm.).
Tree Swallows present a unique problem because of the size and density of the
flocks. Flocks are highly dynamic and often pass back and forth over the runway.
Conventional bird control methods have little effect on dispersing Tree Swallows (SLF
personnel pers. comm.). It is unlikely that a falcon would prove effective on such large
aggregations since flocks show only a localized dispersal response to shell crackers
as well as aircraft. Personal observations suggest that falcons can disperse roosting
flocks of Tree Swallows, however, the swallows respond by becoming airborne and do
not leave the vicinity of the SLF. Alternative methods such as habitat manipulation
(e.g. removing wax myrtles) may prove effective in controlling the movements of Tree
Swallow flocks.
The presence of falcons is likely to have only minimal effect on resident bird
populations, such as Red-winged Blackbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, and Eastern
Meadowlarks (Sturne/la magna), that use the perimeter ditches and lawn for nesting
38
and foraging. Because these birds are residents they are likely to habituate quickly to
the presence of a falcon in the vicinity. Grackles and blackbirds commonly forage and
loaf on the runway and lawn (unpub. data). A falconry program may be successful at
reducing the number of birds loafing and foraging on the runway; however, it is
unlikely that the presence of a falcon will cause resident species to abandon breeding
territories within the SLF.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Although published documents commonly report that falcons can be used with
success in controlling problematic bird species at airfields, falconry is not necessarily
an efficient control method (Mikx 1969, Mattingly 1974, Blokpoel 1976, Doughty 1976,
DeFusco and Nagy 1983, Briot 1987, R. Merdtt, pers. comm.). When employed
intensively, conventional bird control techniques, such as pyrotechnics and acoustics,
have proven less costly and as effective or more effective than falconry (Briot 1987,
Maj. R. Merritt pers. comm., D. Meuschke pets. comm.). Falconry might be considered
a last resort to supplement conventional bird control methods where all other methods
have been proven ineffective (Maj. R. Merdtt pers. comm.). The high cost associated
with the use of falcons is most often cited as the reason for the discontinuation of
falconry programs.
Conservation issues must be considered when assessing the potential for using
falconry in bird control operations. All falconiformes are protected by federal law and
many species used in falconry are federally listed as threatened or endangered. This
can make acquisition difficult and costly (Mikx 1969, Doughty 1976, Blokpoel 1976).
Stringent environmental laws are considered a major impediment to falconry
programs in the United States (Maj. Ron Merritt, Sgt. Keedy pers. comm.).
39
Additionally, many potential target species at the SLF are species of conservation
concern (e.g., Black-bellied plovers). Several non-target species (e.g., Florida Scrub
Jay, Aphelocoma c. coerulescens; Bald Eagle) that occur in the vicinity of the SLF are
state and federally protected (Breininger et al. 1991, Hardesty and Collopy 1991 ).
A bird control program that intensively employs non-lethal control methods such
as habitat manipulation, pyrotechnics, and acoustics may have as high a probability of
being as successful as falconry while being more cost effective. Manipulation of the
habitat at airfields, such as increasing the height of grasses surrounding the runway,
has been tested with some success (Sgt. Keedy pers. comm.). Remote control aircraft
have also been shown to effectively reduce hazards resulting from vultures and other
problem bird species (Briot 1984, R. Yosef pers. comm.). Bird control using remote
control aircraft may have less of an environmental impact than falconry, while being
more flexible and dependable. Furthermore, baiting vultures with carrion to foraging
locations outside of critical airspace during operations has also been successful in
reducing bird/strike hazards in Israel (R. Yosef pers. comm.).
40
LITERATURE CITED
Blaine, G. 1970. Falconry. Spearman, London. 253 pp.
Blokpoel, H. 1976. Bird Hazards to Aircraft. Clarke, Irwin and Co., Ltd., Toronto, 236 pp.
Blokpoel, H. 1977. The use of falcons to disperse nuisance birds at Canadian airports:
an update. Proc. Third World Conf. Bird Hazards to Aircraft, Pads, France, pp. 179-
187.
Breininger, D.R. 1990. Avifauna of hammocks and swamps on John F. Kennedy Space
Center. Fla. Field Nat. 18:21-32.
Breininger, D.R., and P.A. Schmalzer. 1990. Effect of fire and disturbance on vegetation
and bird communities in a Florida oak/palmetto scrub. Am. Midl. Nat. 123:64-74.
Breininger, D.R., and R.B. Smith. 1990. Waterbird use of coastal impoundments and
management implications in east-central Florida. Wetlands 10(2):223-241.
Breininger, D.R., M.J. Provancha, and R.B. Smith. 1991. Mapping Florida Scrub Jay
habitat for purposes of land use management. Photo. Eng. & Remote Sensing
57:1467-1474.
Breininger, D.R., M.J. Kehl, R.B. Smith, D.M. Oddy, and J.A. Provancha. In prep.
Endangered and potentially endangered wildlife on John F. Kennedy Space Center
and faunal integrity as a goal for maintaining biological diversity. NASA Tech.
Memo.
Briot, J.L. 1984. Falconry, model aircraft used to reduce bird-strike hazards. ICAO Bull.,
pp. 25-27.
Briot, J.L. 1987. Fight against bird strikes continues. ICAO Bull., pp. 17-18.
Bird Strike Committee Europe (BSCE). 1992. Working Papers, 21st meeting. March 23-
27. 497 pp.
Collum, R.O. (UNDATED). Operation Bahari. 401st Tactical Fighter Wing, Torrejon Air
Base, Spain. 13 pp. AS CITED IN: Blokpoel, H., 1976. Bird Hazards to Aircraft.
Clarke, Irwin and Co., Ltd., Toronto, 236 pp.
Cruickshank, A.D. 1980. The Birds of Brevard County. Florida Press, Inc., Orlando, FL,
200 pp.
Davies, B.D. 1977. The use of trained falcons to disperse nuisance birds at Vancouver
International Airport. Final Report of Contractor to Ministry of Transport, Ottawa,
Canada. 9 p. AS CITED IN: Blokpoel, H., 1977. The use of falcons to disperse
nuisance birds at Canadian airports: an update. Proc. Third World Conf. Bird
Hazards to Aircraft, Paris, France, pp. 179-187.
41
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43
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4. TITLE AND SUBTITLE 5. FUNDING NUMBERS
A Review of Falconry as a Bird Control Technique with
Recommendations for Use at the Shuttiu Landing Facility,
John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA
IS. AUTHOR(S)
Vickie L. Larson, Sean P. Rowe, David R.
Breininger, and Reuven Yosef, Ph.D.
7.PERFORMINGORGANIZATIONNAME(S)ANDADDRESS(ES)
The Bionetics Corporation
Mail Code: BID-2
Kennedy Space Center, Florida 32899
9. SPONSORING/MONITORINGAGENCYNAME(S)ANDADDRESS(ES)
NASA
Mail Code: MD
John F. Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899
8. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION
REPORT NUMBER
10. SPONSORING /MONITORING
AGENCY REPORT NUMBER
11. SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES
12a. DISTRIBUTION /AVAILABILITY STATEMENT 12b. DISTRIBUTION CODE
13. ABSTRACT (Maximum 200words)
Falconry has been proposed as amethod of reducing the bird/aircraftstrlke hazard, in
addition to current bird control techniques, at the ShuttleLanding Facility (SLF), John F.
Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, U.S. Bird control programs using falconry have
been employed at a number ofmilitary and commercial airfields in the U.S., Canada and
Europe. Mostfalconry programs have been discontinued. In most situations, falconrydid
not prove cost effective when compared to alternative bird controltechniques. Available
literature and documents, as well as several raptorspecialists and military personnel,
suggest that falconry may be usefulonly against certain problem species and when other
bird control methodshave been proven inadequate. Because many of the most
commonly usedfalcons are protected species, acquisition of falcons will complicate
theiruse in bird control programs. Many avian species found at the SLF arefederally and
state protected or of conservation concern, therefore,environmental impacts may also
result from the use of falcons.
14. SUBJECTTERMS
Falconry, Bird Control, Shuttle Landing Facility, Bird Strike
NSN 7540-01-280-5500
18. SECURI[_'r,_I___r_'_CIN I 19.
OF THI_I"PRGE" ....... SECURITY CLASSIFICATION
OF ABSTRACT
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20. LIMITATION OF ABSTRACT
Standard Form 298 (Rev 2-89)
PresCtID_-JCl _NSl StCI Z39-18
298-102
... Los métodos de entrenamiento comunes consisten en lograr que la ra- paz retorne al puño del entrenador o a un señuelo (Woodford, 1987). La cetrería ha sido usada tanto para matar como para dispersar a las aves de un lugar determi- nado (Larson et al., 1994). ...
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