Watching waterfowl migrate south in the winter and north in the spring is one of mother nature’s timely gifts we get to enjoy every year. However, for an airport operator this tends to be their worst nightmare for air safety! Bird strikes happen every day on airports, but the risks are never higher at the peak of waterfowl migration. Companies like Loomacres Wildlife Management and their staff of Wildlife Biologist must ramp up efforts to detour waterfowl from roosting and nesting on stormwater retention ponds or feeding on airfields and nearby crops. During the migration season airports, and airliners loose millions of dollars a year due to collisions with ducks and geese simply passing through, or looking for food, water, and a place to sleep. At Loomacres we have clients in all 4 migratory flyways in North America (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific) and this year the reports from our Airport Wildlife Biologists have all been consistent with the trend that there just isn’t a lot Ducks and Geese Migrating.
But there is a silver lining that is kind of alarming and sad at the same time. According Ducks Unlimited, in 2019 the breeding duck population was estimated at 38.9 million breeding ducks in the which is 6 percent lower than last year’s estimate of 41.2 million and 10 percent above the long-term average (see more). These numbers have continued to fall in 2019, and 2020 according to Wildfowl Magazine, and don’t ask any hunters about the decreased daily bag limits that have seen up to a 50% reduction in states like New York and Maryland. Is it just waterfowl that is disappearing? Nope, Scientific America has seen a decrease in total bird population drop 29% since 1970 which equates to a 3 Billion drop in population!
See Chart Below.
From the graph above you can see that Waterfowl made a huge surge due to conservation efforts till 2017 but have dropped by an average of 5.8% the last three years. So, where the heck have, they gone and what does this mean for Airport Operators? Simply it is a double edge sword scenario. On the one hand less birds less airstrikes but no birds equal more human destruction. It does not take a Wildlife Biologist to see that our human impact on land development and increased population (do not get me started on Global Warming) has significantly reduced the habitat for all living creatures on this planet but specifically in the United States. Will we see a healthy population of migrating ducks and geese level out? We shall see, but for now Airports and Airport Operators are enjoying clear skies but for how long and at what cost.
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