The birds | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The birds

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2007 at 2:30 PM

It’s war on flying rats (aka pigeons) at the Little Rock National Airport, where a spike in collisions between birds and planes has caused the airport to take bird control “to the next level” – a move which has ruffled the feathers of PETA

Ron Mathiew, interim executive director of the airport, said that birdstrikes on aircraft jumped drastically this year; from 16 incidents in 2006, to 40 so far in 2007. While the airport had been using netting, propane cannons and pyrotechnics to keep the 500-plus bird resident flock away from runways, Mathiew said that the increase in birdstrikes led the officials to resort to more drastic measures.

Those measures come in the form of a $9,600 a year contract with a bird-removal company, which has baited common pigeon roosts around the airport with a “grain bait” called Avitrol. According to the Avitrol corporate website, the chemical is usually not fatal on healthy birds – though it can be used as a poison on some species.

“Birds eating the treated bait will be affected in a manner that will artificially cause them to emit distress and alarm cries and visual displays used by their species,” the website says. “This will frighten the flock and cause them to leave the site.” The website’s FAQ page also says that mortality in birds who eat Avitrol will be higher in the winter because birds’ metabolism is higher and because they tend to eat more. Even though this is a sticking point for PETA, Mathiew said the airport plans to keep with its bird control program.

“The applicable word is ‘control,’ Mathiew said. “When the incidents of birdstrikes increase, we must take a more proactive approach.” 

-- David Koon

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