It can’t be done, except we did – using avian radar to identify, predict and respond to flocking waterfowl hazards

It can’t be done, except we did – using avian radar to identify, predict and respond to flocking waterfowl hazards

David Bradbeer
Wildlife Program Specialist
Vancouver International Airport
3211 Grant McConachie Way
Richmond, British Columbia, Canaada V7B 0A4
1 (604) 619-7700


Jeff Follett
Unit 1 / 9 Greg Chappell Drive
Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Austrailia 4220
1 (507) 508-4605‬

Abstract: Lesser Snow Geese winter on the Fraser River estuary in southwestern British Columbia and are a hazard to aviation operations at Vancouver International Airport. Though the geese do not consistently use habitats at the airport, they actively transit between habitats outside the airfield. This includes movements between tidal sedge marshes, upland agricultural fields, and suburban amenity turf grass fields and lawns. The hazard associated with these daily movements is most acute when flocks overfly the departure runways. Understanding the routes taken by the geese and the timing of the flights allows airport managers to proactively deploy resources to manage these specific wildlife hazards. It also supports the planning and implementation of novel operational procedures as further mitigation.

We used an avian radar system to characterize patterns of Snow Goose movements. Analysis of flight patterns were initially conducted by studying hour-long blocks of radar data to visually identify radar tracks that were associated with Snow Goose movements. We also conducted observations of geese in the field to create a validated database of radar tracks. From these data we identified target characteristics associated with geese and created geospatially defined zones within the avian radar system that would automatically alert if goose flocks persisted within the zones. This provided on-duty wildlife management personnel with real-time awareness of goose movements Using the analysis of flight pattern methodology, we identified a new trend of goose flight behaviour in spring 2022. With the available information we were able to strategize mitigations to the new flight behaviour, which included a daily scheduled watch to detect the geese; real-time radar alert zones to improve situational awareness; and the coordination of dynamic departure management with ATC, airport safety officers and wildlife management personnel. 

This work demonstrates that avian radar systems can be used to 1) identify new patterns of flight behaviour; 2) visually communicate the hazard to airport stakeholders; and 3) provide real-time situational awareness to on-duty wildlife personnel. Another finding is that novel departure management procedures can reduce the likelihood of striking flocking waterbirds.

David Bradbeer

David Bradbeer is the wildlife program coordinator for the Vancouver Airport Authority. He is responsible for coordinating the YVR Wildlife Management Program, including risk assessments, strategic development of mitigation measures, and performance review. David obtained a B.Sc.(agroecology) in 2004 and a M.Sc. (wildlife management) in 2007, both from the University of British Columbia. His past work experience includes delivery of agricultural stewardship programs on the Fraser River delta and a variety of waterfowl research and survey projects.

Jeff Follett

Jeff draws on 20 years of project and people management in leading Avisure’s team. He has a demonstrated record of achievement in programmatic areas such as project design and implementation, risk management, stakeholder consultation and training, and monitoring and evaluation. Jeff believes in contributing to the industry in which he works, holding a Standing Committee Chair position with the Bird Strike Committee USA and providing technical advice for industry documents including the National Airports Safeguarding Framework Guideline C (Managing the Risk of Wildlife Strikes in the Vicinity of Airports) and ICAO Doc 9332 [Manual on the ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS)] . He has assisted clients in North America, Oceania, Southeast Asia and the Middle East to manage their wildlife hazards through training, hazard assessments, active management, and the development of management.

Back to Tuesday’s schedule