An unlikely match of flight habits of birds of prey and, yes, people is the basis of a rather unusual job and wildlife management project that Central Highlands Regional Council undertakes.
A specialised contractor, Avisure, assists council with its wildlife strike mitigation plan, which literally reduces the likelihood of wildlife striking an airplane at Emerald Airport.
Wildlife Biologist and Avisure General Manager Jeff Follett was on his annual visit to council last week and said the most common suspects are black kites.
‘The kites sit at the landfill but they feed on the wing and are attracted by activities that disturb soil,’ he said.
‘When agricultural work, for example, disturbs soil around the airport, the paths of birds and planes cross and, much like people, the birds prefer to fly in the morning and the afternoon.
‘We call that matching activity patterns.’
Council takes on the operational work of the wildlife strike mitigation plan, which includes active management like monitoring and chasing birds away as planes take off and land, and passive management like mowing the grass in a certain way to stop birds from coming in the first place.
‘When I landed this morning, I saw the patrol vehicle out doing checks,’ Mr Follett said.
‘Ideally, you have someone out there before the aircraft lands and takes off to make sure the strip is clear.
‘If that doesn’t work airport staff has communication strategies with pilots where they notify them via various tools and let them know what’s going on with wildlife in the area.’
It’s a requirement by aviation safety standards worldwide to have wildlife strike mitigation plans in place where wildlife is present around airports.
Avisure originally helped Central Highlands Regional Council develop a wildlife strike mitigation plan in 2012. The company continues to act as a technical advisor to council and works with ninety airports worldwide, including high-bird-strike-risk airports such as Vancouver, Canada, where hundreds of thousands of geese overwinter posing serious aviation risk.