Wellington Airport has option to ‘paint’ birds to monitor birdstrike risk

Wellington Airport has option to ‘paint’ birds to monitor birdstrike risk

Aug 12, 2018 News by Gary Searing

Wellington’s birds of a feather could be seen flocking together coloured either blue or green. Wellington Airport is weighing up whether to spray birds different colours to help monitor the risk of birdstrike and note bird migration. New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association senior technical officer David Reynolds said marking birds to track them was not unheard of.  “It seems an unusual thing to do, but it’s a good way of tracking the bird movements.” If it went ahead with the proposal, the airport would target the black-backed gull – one of only two native bird species not protected by the Wildlife Act. They’re often considered pests, especially at airports, and have been known to be a major cause of bird strike. Reynolds said it would be easier to identify where the birds were coming from if they were painted, compared to simply tagging them. “Birds are not going to be bothered by it. There’s lots of environmentally-friendly ways to do it.”

Wellington Airport says the safety of its users are its number one priority.

Southern Landfill operations manager Darren Hoskins said birds from the landfill were part of a study by the Wellington Airport Company.  “[They’ve] said to us that they will come back to us in the near future and talk to us about colourising the birds.”  The airport held a stakeholders’ group meeting with the landfill early this year to discuss the issue, he said.  “That was when it [coloured birds] was suggested. They’ve since been in touch to organise the next meeting, and they talked about that as an option.”

They planned to meet in the next couple of months, and the options would be discussed further, he said.  Birds from the colonies and the landfills would be targeted, especially the black-backed gull, he said.  “They would be sprayed with water and there would be food colouring put in to the water.”  It had been suggested the birds from the Southern Landfill in Happy Valley could be sprayed green, and the birds in Silverstream landfill could be sprayed blue, he said.  “It’s a regional problem, not just a city problem.”

Wellington Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said the safety of travellers was its number one priority. “Wellington Airport uses a range of long and short term measures including ecological surveying and black-backed gull monitoring to lower the risk of bird strike.”  The airport was already monitoring black back gull movements from the Happy Valley tip using GPS tracking, he said.  “The tracking is quite simple, it’s the same as how someone would track a kiwi.  “A small tracking device is attached to the bird.”  Bird painting would involve the birds being painted a different colour from each different location, he said.  “Those are just options that we’re considering.”