ATLANTA (AP) — The world's busiest airport in Atlanta is ramping up its efforts to prevent birds and other wildlife from colliding with the roughly 2,500 commercial flights the airport handles each day.
The work includes trapping hawks, scaring birds off with loud cannons, and sometimes using lethal force — with coyotes, for instance.
Wildlife biologist Steven Boyd was the airport's first wildlife biologist when he was hired five years ago, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recently hired a second wildlife biologist to help Boyd protect planes and their passengers from the often unseen risk posed by birds and other wildlife.
"We statistically have so many aircraft moving about here in Atlanta that there's a high likelihood of a wildlife strike," Boyd said.
Atlanta's airport has had 186 reports of wildlife strikes so far this year, as of September, according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration.
One example from Sept. 30: A Delta flight from Montego Bay into Atlanta reported that it "struck a bird during the landing roll," according to the report. Airport staff inspected the runway and "removed the remains of a Great Egret," the report said. No aircraft damage was found.
In each case, Boyd's job includes overseeing the collection of bird remains and identifying the bird species. If he doesn't know the bird type, he oversees the packaging of the remains and sends them to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. for its bird specialists to identify.
Types of birds killed this year include a red-tailed hawk, mourning doves and barn owls.
During the busy season for bird strikes, from July to October when young birds are emerging from nests and other birds are migrating, there might be roughly one bird strike a day reported at Hartsfield-Jackson, Boyd said.
The south side of the airfield, where the newest runway was built in 2006, has the most animal activity, the Atlanta newspaper reported. There, "the wildlife haven't relinquished their habitat just yet," Boyd said.
One of the most unusual bird strikes during Boyd's time at the airport was a pelican in 2014.
"That's very rare, because brown pelicans are normally not alone, and typically by a body of water — usually along the coast," he said.
The new wildlife biologist, Jeffrey Miller, starts this month and will help Boyd tackle the myriad tasks of airport wildlife management across the airport's 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares) of land.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com