JFK Airport: They Shoot Owls Don’t They?

“The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates [JFK] airport, reportedly gave the order [to shoot snowy owls on sight] after one owl flew into the engine of a plane on the tarmac,” businessinsider.com reports. “Two of the birds were shot with a shotgun on Saturday.” Needless to say, the story has caused an uproar. And a change in policy. “After media reports on the hunted owls Monday, the Port Authority said it would implement a program to trap and relocate the birds, which have been migrating to the region this year in unusually high numbers.” Does this satisfy bird lovers? “Christine Sheppard, director of the Bird Collision Program for American Bird Conservancy and one of the world’s leading experts on bird collisions, said there are other ways to avoid bird strikes. ‘You can use radar,’ she said. ‘Create a situation where people at the airport are aware of where birds are, they can actually warn a pilot.'” Yeah, well, people are people too, if you know what I mean.

 

comments

  1. avatar Paul B says:

    Hmmm…snowy owls in NYC? Seems global warming is not working out as planned.

    The greens are once again adding costs that outwiegh the benefit just to protect some birds. If they loved humanity half as much just think what they could accomplish.

    1. avatar chuck (hates nj) says:

      But but but the icebergs melt in the summer and its not like our planet goes through hot and cold periods.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        I keep telling the idiots, “Climate is DEFINED by change; if it never changed, there’d be no name for it! They’d just say, ‘same ol’, same ol'”.

    2. avatar De Facto says:

      They’ve already dropped the “global warming” phrase when they talk about mankind destroying the earth. In the face of the burgeoning reality of global cooling, they’re now calling it “Climate Change.”
      According to this liberal coin toss, heads man is destroying the earth- tails man is destroying the earth.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        Give it another 3 years, maybe 5. All but the true idiot true believers will realize we’re sliding into an ice age, at the very least a mini-ice age, like a couple hundred years ago.

        The overall trend seems to be cooling, after the roughly 19-year warming spike. We don’t know much about climate at ALL, despite claims to the contrary.

  2. avatar WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot says:

    Aircraft/Owl airspace deconfliction using radar? I’m guessing, um, no…

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      As in ‘beyond the pale’.

      Another progressive airhead.

      1. avatar Leadbelly says:

        Hope she experiences a bird strike WITHOUT Sully Sullenberger at the controls. Personally, I like being at the top of the food chain. Owls are beautiful, and efforts should be made to accommodate wildlife, but individual critters do not trump one human life.

  3. avatar Rokurota says:

    They are aware of the birds. That’s how they can shoot them.

    1. avatar BillC says:

      hahaha. That was a good laugh.

  4. avatar TTACer says:

    “Christine Sheppard, director of the Bird Collision Program for American Bird Conservancy and one of the world’s leading experts on bird collisions, said there are other ways to avoid bird strikes. ‘You can use radar,’ she said. ‘Create a situation where people at the airport are aware of where birds are, they can actually warn a pilot.’”

    This has another tie-in to the people of the gun: Stupid people making stupid suggestions for a technological solution for something they know nothing about.

    1. avatar Salty Bear says:

      And she’s “one of the world’s leading experts on bird collisions.” Is that a real thing? Does she have an advanced degree in the subject? You’d think that any masters-level bird collisions program would have a segment dedicated to the feasibility of radar detection.

      1. avatar ThayneT says:

        So many things to laugh at in this article, especially that.
        My high school counselor never mentioned THAT as a career option.

      2. avatar Roscoe says:

        She is self taught; field schooled as it were.

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          How? By running into birds?

        2. avatar pyratemime says:

          Perhaps by running a-fowl of them.

      3. avatar TTACer says:

        Back when I was getting my PhD in Bird Collisions at the School of BS I Made Up For This Joke (SoBIMUFTJ, for short), we just had the owls turn on their TCAS transponders. Problem solved.

    2. avatar Hasdrubal says:

      So, since the owls are unlikely to be monitoring standard aircraft radio frequencies, I can only assume she intends the pilots to take sole responsibility for avoiding collisions. It then follows that she expects, at any airport regardless of if they have commercial flights arriving and departing every 30 seconds from multiple runways, to just wait until the owls decide to leave, or at least take a coffee break.

      1. avatar Roscoe says:

        Maybe she lives under the traffic pattern and wants the airport to close; ‘for the birds’ of course.

      2. avatar William Burke says:

        “Snowy Owl flock ahead at 4 kilometers, Cap’n!”

        “Thanks, Mr. Roberts. The Sheppard Protocol demands a full stop; take measures IMMEDIATELY!”

      3. avatar TJK says:

        She is working with Obama to have provisions put into the healthcare ‘tax’ that will allow for the Snowy Owls to get mini radar systems for free so they can avoid the planes

    3. avatar Jus Bill says:

      And she sent her missive, written in crayon on ruled paper, to “Mr. Owl Shooter, JFK Airport.”

    4. avatar Roscoe says:

      The birds themselves are supremely maneuverable and have the best chance to avoid colliding with a moving or stationary object and even they fail to do so.

      No aircraft, even the smallest being piloted by someone with superior situational awareness can evade a big or small bird that the pilot will likely not even see until the bird is no more than blood and gore trailing off the leading edge of a wing or streaming around the cockpit canopy – and hopefully not through the canopy.

      At best, a pilot of a smaller, slower A/C might be able to see and maintain separation from a visible flock given enough distance and room to maneuver – if the flock keeps a heading away from the A/C.
      A full size commercial carrier; yeah, good luck with that – not gonna’ happen.

      This Ms Sheppard, just like so many of the gun grabbers, appears to be simply another hand wringing do gooder living in a fantasy land populated with white unicorns. She seems to know nothing of what she speaks, is unwilling to either educate herself, perceive or accept reality, and ultimately simply wants to abolish the activity she finds offensive whether it is logical to do so or not.

      She and Shannon Watts would probably make good friends.

    5. avatar Rad Man says:

      A pilot friend of mine tells me these engines are tested at the factory by throwing shopping bags full of seagulls into them just to ensure that the occasional bird ingestion doesn’t disable them. I’m much more comfortable flying now that I know that.

      1. avatar Clay says:

        Lol, you can shop for these?

  5. avatar 505markf says:

    I’ve been on a plane climbing out of Toronto that lost an engine to a bird strike. Fuck the birds.

    1. avatar BillC says:

      It’s scarier when that happens on a Blackhawk helicopter. Makes all the pretty lights flash red and multiple tones of death.

      1. avatar 505markf says:

        I can only imagine the pucker factor induced by such an event in a helicopter. In a well-crewed CRJ it was not frightening until we landed at such a speed that they had to basically burn out the brakes to stop and we were surrounded on the ground by fire engines. I was pretty good until the pilot came out and told all 40 or so of us to stand up, leave your bags, exit the aircraft, and run into the terminal, a hundred or so feet away, as quickly as we could. Seems there was a concern the brakes would explode and then rupture fuel tanks above them in the wings. But it was all good. Much respect for the kinds of events aircrew deal with.

        1. avatar BillC says:

          F#$k the birds.

  6. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    First I thought guns were illegal in New York city? OK do I need a hunting permit? If not, me, my 308, and some ammo are on the next flight out. 🙂

  7. avatar Aharon says:

    I can see it now: “hey pilot of flight #123 there are owls in your flight landing path so therefore you must take immediate evasive action…”

    1. avatar chuck (hates nj) says:

      We’re gonna need you to crash land in the hudson.

    2. avatar Leadbelly says:

      Mini-guns in the noses of 737s!

  8. avatar Kevin B says:

    “..just to protect some birds”

    I anticipate some flames, but here goes.

    While I’m not suggesting that one owl is more important than a planeload of people, we are in the end responsible for the things we do. We’re more or less running things and the owls don’t get a vote (at least we’ve never asked). Humans are already the most destructive invasive species of all time, hands down.

    I remember reading about someone not being able to wrap their heads around the notion that animals have rights. Well, maybe they don’t. I’m not going to argue that. But, even if they don’t have rights, isn’t it smart not to kill things indiscriminately?

    Killing stuff to eat….yup, good thing, I’ll have seconds….pass the gravy.

    Killing stuff for fun because there’s lots of them and who cares anyway….not so good.

    Killing stuff because its in the way….again, not so good. Short sighted, too, since ultimately biodiversity is a good thing.

    1. avatar BillF says:

      Do you have a suggestion? The alternatives seem to be shoot ’em on sight. Or do nothing and risk crashing a plane load of people, in which case the owl still dies or ground all the planes until the owls move on? Not a flame–just wondering. Nothing is foolproof, even trapping them. They’ll learn to evade the traps.

    2. avatar Chris says:

      The farmers in Texas overrun with feral pigs would beg to differ.

    3. avatar Kevin B says:

      No, I don’t have a suggestion. I’m only pointing out that we (humans) automatically assume that anything we want to do to other species must be OK. That thinking doesn’t always work out best for us, even in the short term.

      As for the pigs, we brought them to North America.

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        “As for the pigs, we brought them to North America.”
        So? Exactly how does that make them less of a problem?

      2. avatar chuck (hates nj) says:

        Canadian geese are a problem that we didn’t bring here. Many of them are becoming residential birds and severely pollute the waters they live near. That being said I have no problem with anyone shooting them.

    4. avatar Kyle in CT says:

      +1

      Snowy owls are endangered/threatened in the US. Indiscriminately killing things is bad practice for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we don’t often know the final cost until it’s too late. Remember the buffalo? Turns out their movements significantly aided in rainwater surface penetration, which is the mechanism that feeds aquifers in the Midwest. You can never do just one thing.

      More to the point, there are other easy ways to discourage owls from nesting around the airport. Explosives and dogs have worked in other places, JFK just seems to have a lack of imagination.

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        Seriously.

        I like guns as much as the next guy, but “shoot it” is not the answer to every damn question.

        We should be trying to be good stewards of this planet.

      2. avatar BillF says:

        In NY wine country they use some sort of cannon/noisemaker to keep the birds out of the vineyards. They blast off every few minutes. I guess that wouldn’t be an alternative in NYC though, or any airport, as the sound would have everyone in a panic. Not to mention that if normal airport noise doesn’t put them off, a noismaker probably wouldn’t. There must be something that pisses owls off enough to make them move off.

        1. avatar BASHer says:

          Propane cannons can run off a timer or be remote controlled. The remote controlled cannons are used by some airports for harassment.

        2. avatar Leadbelly says:

          Tether big herds of mice somewhere off the runway?

        3. avatar BillF says:

          Yeah…but the mice. Who’s gonna speak for the mice?

        4. avatar Jus Bill says:

          Wolves? Teenagers?

    5. avatar 505markf says:

      I agree with your points, but I think a sense of scale needs to be factored in. From the Conservancy website I learn that between 300 million to 1 billion birds are killed in strikes with buildings yearly; over 7 million from striking communications towers; millions more from strikes at wind farms. In general I agree that where possible, we should “engineer” some avoidance of unnecessary wildlife deaths into the things we build.

      Yet how many owls did the Port Authority kill at JFK? Two? And everyone is in an uproar. Where is the outrage about the windows in NYC that no doubt kill millions of birds every year? I contend that to some people “gun” equals “murder” while the same people would think corner windows simply provide a view.

    6. avatar Cyrano says:

      I anticipate you are picketing the wind turbine fields. Now the top killer of Eagles in the US. The Government now hands out 30 year permits to excuse the destruction of the raptors.

      Odd that a duck dies next to a tar pond in North Dakota and there is a 4 year investigation from the government but eagles litter the wind turbine fields and not a squeak is made.

      At least the airplanes make plenty of noise to give the owls a heads up. But as the old joke goes… Want to kill a deer? put headlights on your bullets and a blaring horn.

      Some animals just walk into it.

      A rose is a weed in a vineyard.

    7. avatar Morgan Gatorsee says:

      I can see where your coming from Kevin, snow owls being one of my favorite animals but in the end I have to support killing of nuisance animals on your own property. Sitting on the sidelines it is easy to get our feathers ruffled without knowing all the facts or being in someone else’s shoes. My grandfather wipes out prairie dogs like the grim reaper on his land without harvesting the meat. When you realize the cost to fix a horse that broke a leg and the fact that it is his land you start to see his point. My daughter and I take out coyotes sneaking up on our chickens and rabbits and then we take the carcasses and toss them out near the edge of our property line. If…if I objected to the killing of a snow owl on your land then I would be no better than those who wish for me to welcome the coyotes on my land.

      To be honest it is not like NY is shooting ALL owls on site across the whole state in a very knee jerk reaction to the situation, if that were the case then I would be on board with you but as it stands right now I say let them do what needs to be done.

    8. avatar Patrick says:

      Humans being and “invasive species” is an ideological argument, so I won’t discuss it here. I just think you should be careful in examining your audience before using the term as a premise. Some people believe that people are like animals, but others believe that humans are above animals, set apart. I would say that this is a mixed crowd, so would avoid man’s role in an argument, if possible.

      On animal rights, I usually stick with promoting the avoidance of causing animal suffering, such as brutal treatment, careless hunting, etc. Nature is a dangerous and painful place for animals, so as long as the shot is sure and well placed, hunting is usually acceptable. I’m not familiar with this owl, but if it is generally endangered, and if they are pouring over onto the runways, perhaps they are not endangered in this specific area? I may be wrong on that. I guess conservancy is another issue. I don’t know how many snowy owls are killed by airplanes.

    9. avatar William Burke says:

      Just ask a Passenger Pigeon. Wait, you CAN’T, because scads of new North American settlers shot ’em out of the sky, because they could, by God! The number of them shot into extinction in a couple decades could have fed every human living in North America for YEARS.

      “Because I can”, or “because God said I could” is lousy stewardship. To put it mildly.

      END OF SERMON

      Apparently the enormous influx of Snowy Owls into the Northeast (for the moment), especially from Logan down to Newark, is WAY unprecedented, and somewhat of a mystery. No, HUGE mystery.

      Radiation from Fukushima? It’s been kept quiet, but Virginia Beach, VA is RadCon 5 right now, and much of the East Coast north of there is RadCon 4. Snowy Owls are much more common in the Great Lakes and southern Canada in winter. Some venture into New England, but not in the numbers seen this year, apparently.

  9. avatar Gordon Bennett says:

    Shooting them actually does not work, you need to root out the nests and use an eagle or something to shoo them away, stop them coming back.

    As an aside, owls are really stupid creatures.

    1. avatar Cyrano says:

      +1 on the stupidity of Owls. I used to fish them out of chicken waterers because they would drown plunging into the reservoir. I assume they were attacking the chicken’s reflection or maybe their own?

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      Huh. If someone shot me dead I’d stop coming back.

  10. avatar HiddenHills says:

    After a trip through the Boeing-Blender, I bet they taste like roast chicken.

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      Actually, they probably taste like roasted Jet-A; extremely foul.

      1. avatar chuck (hates nj) says:

        I think you meant fowl. But I could be wrong.

        1. avatar Roscoe says:

          Play on words, but noxious (as in Jet fuel exhaust and burnt flesh) was the primary intent.

      2. avatar Patrick says:

        I think all the Jet-A would be cooked off. Actually, the bird would probably reach well over cooked temperature by time it leaves the compressor section. Wait, you can’t compress owl, can you?

        1. avatar William Burke says:

          Jet-A, primarily kerosene, burns off but leaves an oily residue on wild meat and tame, I’d imagine.

          I nominate you for this experiment: buy a Christmas Turkey, douse it inside and out, and set ‘er on far.

          Merry Christmas. Enjoy!

  11. avatar DrVino says:

    Warn the pilot? So [s]he can do what, exactly? Make a sharp right while gunning it up the runway?
    What an idiot…

    1. avatar BillF says:

      Memo to Christine: Evasive maneuvers with a jumbo jet…..probably not.

      I can see the logic of using radar to track flocks of migrating birds and possibly delaying takeoff by a few seconds to safely avoid them. But tracking single birds?

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      Yeah, a jet going about 100 knots down a runway is not turning or stopping. Pretty sure owls are more agile. And how many more people are they going to hire to watch the owl radar?

      This is one of the most busy airports in the world, where millions are lost in money and manpower if flights get delayed. If it happens because of weather, ok… can’t do much about that. But some owls? Fuck that, shoot em. Go ahead and figure out all sorts of other ways to keep them away… but once they’ve decided to be there, sorry owl, you gotta die.

  12. avatar BASHer says:

    Just about every airport with passenger service has a wildlife management plan. The first and most effective course of action to take is exclusion with good fencing. Second is habitation modification to remove food sources and other attractions. Third up is active harassment followed by depredation. Depending on the size, species, and their number harassment will escalate to removal in a continuum of force. See reedjoseph.com, originalshellcracker.com, and http://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/problem/media/2005_FAA_Manual_complete.pdf for further reading.

    1. avatar Tim says:

      Thank you. I’m an FAA air traffic controller, and my airport does a lot to mitigate the bird-aircraft strike hazard, but it’s impossible to *completely* mitigate it. Christine Sheppard clearly knows nothing about birds, aircraft, radar systems, and the policies that the FAA and airports around the country have in place to keep airplanes full of humans safe.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        The only thing Christine knows is how to Make Noise and Get on the Media. Congratulations, nitwit.

        By the way, the POTG could take a lesson or two from her.

  13. avatar Fury says:

    Kyle @ 10:54 Am:

    Snowy Owls are not on the Endangered/Threatened Species List of the US Fish &^Wildlife Service. I don’t know if they are on any state list. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

    Gordon Bennett @ 10:38 Am:

    Snowy Owls are not nesting this time of year, so trying to destroy a nest will not be helpful. As far as eagles shooing them away, that’s not going to be very effective. Snowy Owls are an apex species and eagles will usually keep their distance from a Snowy Owl. About the only other bird species that really causes them grief are Great-horned Owls (when Snowy Owls wander into the territory of a Great-horned). American Crows might mob a Snowy Owl, as they often do Great-horned Owls.

    Snowy Owls can be trapped via several means (bal-chatri? trap, etc.). They’re pretty effective. Don’t know about the stupid part, but am very respectful of the talons of any owl species.

    1. avatar rlc2 says:

      Thanks. Good science.

      Once saw a Great Horned take a Barn owl right off a branch, at dusk. Bam/screech, cloud of feathers- done. Pretty amazing display of territory defense/food hunting.

      For newb hunters – be careful if you ever have the chance to pick one up or mess with the nest. Horned owls have strongest talon grip strength of North American birds, per a handler from SD Wild Animal Park I spoke with once. Think 10 penny nails driven into your hand instantaneously from opposing sides to meet…

      Lots of people don’t get that its illegal to shoot owls, hawks or eagles. Since its a federal law, I’d guess you could get in a lot of trouble if you didnt have a depredation permit.

      Lots of people dont get that fully loaded aircraft full of 300+ people cant take enough evasive action on takeoff or landing to really matter, to avoid flying into a flock of birds in close, not to mention just one – visible by eye or radar. We used to have to schedule around the evening flocks of fruit bats going to/from their nesting sites off the end of the runway at NAS Cubi Pt. Be tough to shut down a busy airport like JFK…

      Lots of bird-brains in the enviro-nitwit community, like Christine, will NEVER get it.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        I cannot fathom that any person, no matter how dense or rainbowy, could fail to grasp that jumbo jets have poor manueverability. One flight should be enough information.

        Maybe Ms. Sheppard takes a pill before boarding, so she won’t have to deal with the uncertainties of manned flight.

  14. avatar Ralph says:

    Admittedly, I am no expert on bird strikes. But as a retired attorney, I am an expert on bullsh1t, and Christine Sheppard is full of it. Or maybe it’s birdsh1t.

  15. avatar ShaunL says:

    If they’re looking to find other, just as likely, ways to prevent owl strikes couldn’t they just make the owls wear 50 lb lead collars?

    Or maybe they could just put up signs telling the owls where to fly like they do with deer crossing signs…lol.

  16. avatar BillF says:

    Hope they don’t use NYPD to shoot the owls. Everyone at the airport would die before a single owl got clipped.

  17. avatar Defens says:

    There’s a lot of social injustice in this policy. Just because one snowy owl flew into an engine, doesn’t mean they all will. It’s not right to racially profile snowy owls, just because one of them caused an issue. If I had a son, it would look like a snowy owl.

  18. avatar Buster says:

    James Gregory quote: “When was the last time you walked into a pet store and said, damn, you’re out of owls”?

  19. avatar Bob says:

    Today Boeing introduced plans for upgrades to it’s 747 fleet. Because of bird strike issues, several new premium seats will be added to the planes, spread out over the plane’s structure. Reminiscent of the B-17’s of WW2, planes will be outfitted with multiple stations, housing twin, full auto, shotgun turrets. This will allow passengers to engage birds in the flight path to reduce human fatalities. Company spokespersons have stated, “F those birds…we not loosing a multi million dollar jet and hundreds of passengers because some pea brained animal is too stupid to stay out of the way.”

    Rumors are the big 3 automotive manufactures are investigating similar technology to deal with deer and moose collisions.

  20. avatar gs650g says:

    So how tasty are these owls?

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      You’ve never watched THE WALKING DEAD, have you? (Sarcastic comment: “Just like Mom used to make”).

      I would say, if you had a handful of suspect red berries and a couple of fat tubers, you’d choose those over the owl.

  21. avatar John in AK says:

    Eons of our years ago, I was allowed to borrow an unused taxiway on our local Air Force base to teach emergency vehicle operations to new recruits; During one summer session, we were contacted by the APs and sternly ordered at the angry behest of the base commander to promptly move the vehicles that we had parked on the scraggy ‘grass’ apron next to the taxiway, as we were hampering the growth of the ‘grass’ and interfering with the natural activities of the resident geese Note well that the ‘grass’ was about 200yds from the flight line, if that, and well-besmirched with goose poop. So, naturally, we moved, lest the feathered innocents be disturbed.

    That fall, the USAF lost an AWACS and its entire crew at this very base due to its engines ingesting a few geese. No survivors, including the beloved geese.

    The next summer, during our training sessions, we were cordially invited to park on any remaining ‘grass’ anywhere that we could find with the grateful thanks of the USAF. Alas, the USAF had also undertaken to, um, ‘reduce’ the local goose population about their runways, and sadly, the vast quantities of goose poop on the ‘grass’ were no more.

    Funny how the death of 24 human beings puts the value of a few feathered sh*t-factories into perspective.

    1. avatar ShaunL says:

      Geese also happen to be yummy. Or so I’ve heard.

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