Wellington Airport’s painting of birds orange, green and blue has found where they’re foraging

Wellington Airport’s painting of birds orange, green and blue has found where they’re foraging

Sep 1, 2019 News by Gary Searing
Wellington birds are showing their true colours after the airport has had them painted in a project to monitor birdstrike. Hundreds of gulls sprayed with, orange, green and blue paint have helped Wellington Airport to address birdstrike.

Black-backed gulls are known for becoming lodged in planes, and late last year the airport sprayed them with paint at three different Wellington landfills to decipher which dump is the most popular feeding spot for the birds.  Wellington Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said most of them, unsurprisingly, were coming from the Southern Landfill.

Last year Wellington Airport sprayed gulls with paint at three different Wellington landfills to track where they were coming from.
Wellington birds are showing their true colours after the airport has had them painted in a project to monitor birdstrike.
Last year Wellington Airport sprayed gulls with paint at three different Wellington landfills to track where they were coming from. “It is the largest of the landfills in the Wellington region, and obviously the one closest to the airport at only 4 kilometres distance.” The painting of the birds at the Southern, Spicers (Porirua) and Silverstream landfills was a success, Thomas said.
Wellington Airport sprayed birds with paint to find which landfill was contributing the most gulls  to birdstrike.
Wellington Airport sprayed birds with paint to find which landfill was contributing the most gulls to birdstrike.

The dye lasted between two and three weeks on the birds, he said.  Coloured birds were spotted, by the public and the airport, in the vicinity to where they were marked – for example, orange-marked gulls from the Southern Landfill were observed around Wellington’s south coast, including Moa Point. The project is ongoing – the airport is continuing to track four gulls using GPS.

At Spicer Landfill birds were painted 'apple green' for the Wellington Airport bird tracking plan to monitor birdstrike.
Wellington Airport sprayed birds with paint to find which landfill was contributing the most gulls to birdstrike.
At Spicer Landfill birds were painted ‘apple green’ for the Wellington Airport bird tracking plan to monitor birdstrike. In December last year five Southern black-backed gulls were fitted with tracking devices, but one of the gulls has since died. The GPS phase showed the gulls travelled considerable distances – not only between the landfills but also across to the South Island, Thomas said. Each device fitted to the gulls provided six updates of the bird’s locations every 24 hours.
Coloured birds were spotted, by the public and the airport, in the vicinity to where they were marked.
Coloured birds were spotted, by the public and the airport, in the vicinity to where they were marked.

“We are receiving data which requires extensive statistical analysis and modelling. This will then be used to further inform the airport’s wildlife hazard management of the Southern black-backed gull, and their movements in and around the airfield. We are pleased with the progress of the research and the data collected is invaluable.”

The project is ongoing - the airport is continuing to track four gulls using GPS.
The project is ongoing – the airport is continuing to track four gulls using GPS.

The colour-marking phase at the three landfills before the GPS tracking was successful because it provided definitive evidence of the species foraging at the landfills, he said.  This was further confirmed by a later GPS tracking phase, he said. The latest CAA report (April to June 2019) Wellington Airport’s bird strike rate is low, and it has been rated as low for many years.   “A key goal of the study was to better understand the species, and to obtain definitive data as to where they were coming from, and going to. The findings would be key data on where and how often they were in the vicinity of the airfield, at what times, and at what altitude”, he said.

Stuff – Environment