Hawk working at Prestwick

There’s no doubt about it – birds are a dangerous menace to aircraft and, when they choose to take up residence near a runway, desperate measures are called for.

Last week, an RAF aircraft from RAF Leuchars in Fife had to divert to Edinburgh Airport because of a “bird strike” in the air and, in 1980, two RAF pilots were killed after striking birds not long after they took off from RAF Kinloss. In 2006, a Ryanair plane taking off from Prestwick airport had to land, after a seagull was sucked into its engine. The list of mishaps, some of them fatal, involving birds and planes goes on and on. But what can be done to solve the problem?

Prestwick airport is delighted to announce the arrival of Jasper, a Harris hawk who, it is hoped, will scare away the flock of seagulls that are nesting on the roof of a Scottish Water building, close to the airport’s runway. Birds of prey have already earned their keep at Leeds, Bradford, Exeter and many American airports, including JFK.

Jasper’s appointment follows unsuccessful attempts to see the gulls off, including installing protective netting, removing the birds’ nests and using an artificial bird of prey, which obviously did not fool the gulls. Grass near the runway is kept short so that birds are not tempted to nest there and recordings of distressed bird call are played in an attempt to frighten the birds away. It is only to be hoped that Rentokil’s Jasper will have more success in this humane fight against these determined gulls.

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