Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas –
Biologists from the 12th Flying Training Wing Safety Office
at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are
participating in a research project to find solutions for preventing bird
strikes on aircraft at the location.
The project focuses on the white-winged dove, the species of
birds that causes the most damage and poses the most risk to aircraft
operations at JBSA-Randolph because of their sheer numbers, Michael Pacheco,
12th FTW Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard Program biologist, said.
In 2014, there were 70 aircraft from JBSA-Randolph involved
in bird strikes with 12 of those total bird strikes causing $1.15 million in
damage to aircraft operations, Maj. Jeremy Fischman, 12th FTS safety officer,
said. Fischman said white-winged doves were involved in 14 percent of the total
strikes last year, causing $338,000 in damage to aircraft – 30 percent of the
total damage to aircraft operations in 2014.
Biologists plan to trap the white-winged doves and put leg
bands and radio transmitters on them to track their movements on and around
JBSA-Randolph, Brian Washburn, USDA Wildlife Services research biologist, said.
The project’s findings, will focus on the location of the
doves’ habitats at JBSA-Randolph and the surrounding areas in order to
determine when the birds are on JBSA-Randolph, and where they go in the
Using this research data, biologists hope to find ways to
prevent the birds from using JBSA-Randolph as their habitat to prevent future
bird aircraft strikes.
Washburn said it will take biologists a year to gather and
analyze the data from the research project.
“We want to get a sense as to what part of the population is
actually migrating away and what part is staying here year round, and that’s
important when we look into our BASH operations to reduce risks,” Washburn
said. “We want to know what bird behavior patterns we are dealing with.”
Washburn said project plans include capturing 1,080
white-winged doves this summer and another 1,000 doves in the winter.
those doves, he said, will have a leg band with a unique number placed before
the bird is released.
Of the 1,080 doves captured in the summer, 80 of them will
have small radio transmitters implanted underneath their skin behind the head,
Pacheco said white-winged doves pose a safety threat to
pilots and aircraft operations at JBSA-Randolph. When an aircraft strikes a
bird, one or even two engines could be taken out.
“There is a high potential for a catastrophic event,”
Pacheco said. “You don’t want to lose a pilot or a plane because of a bird
The highest number of instances of aircraft striking
white-winged doves occurs in the spring and summer when the white-winged dove
population is at its highest peak due to breeding, nesting and migration, Pacheco
Since white-winged doves tend to gather in larger groups,
Fischman said more than one of these birds can be involved in the same strike
against an aircraft, causing the most damage of any species to aircraft at
Ted Pepps, USDA wildlife biologist from Sheppard Air Force
Base, Texas, said biologists will capture the birds by using a remote
controlled electromagnetic drop net trap system.
Pepps said this is a trap system that requires birds to be
preconditioned to feeding under the net for several days before any capture
occurs. Once the desired number and species of birds are feeding under the net,
a remote trigger is used to drop the net on the birds.
“It allows us to capture a larger number of birds in a
short period of time, making the effort more efficient,” he said. “It’s easy to
set up. It can be deployed quickly and quietly.”