Take care: we share the air

This entry was posted Thursday, 9 December, 2010 at 5:36 pm

by MigrantWatch Admin

Watching birds often starts as a relaxing pastime and sometimes progresses into contributing to the science of ornithology. But in Israel, enthusiasts who look for migratory birds go a step further – they save lives.

Israel’s airspace is stretched to the limit, on the one hand by the national air force, which is one of the world’s biggest and on the other by heavy commercial air traffic. Twice a year, this airspace is also packed with some 500 million migratory birds, which use this narrow bottleneck of land at the junction of Europe, Asia and Africa to move between their winter and summer homes. The bird densities recorded during this period are the highest anywhere in the world.

This swarm of flying objects – natural and manmade – obviously leads to a high risk of mid-air collisions, accidents and even fatalities. The picture here shows a migrating Common Crane that crashed into a military helicopter in Israel. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

But a novel initiative by scientists at the Tel Aviv University and the Israeli air force has, over the years, dramatically reduced financial losses and the loss of lives resulting from bird hits. This is achieved through a network of volunteer birdwatchers who provide constant updates over the phone to a central information repository on numbers, altitude and direction of movement of migrating bird flocks. This, combined with radar sensors, satellites, and military drones gives the air force an incredibly detailed picture of bird movements, thereby giving their pilots a chance to plan their own routes accordingly.

Not surprisingly, pilots quickly learn this motto: “Take care. We share the air.”

More reading

Note: In India, airports try to minimise the risk of bird strikes during take-off and landing by habitat management, removal of food sources (for scavenging birds) and by scaring birds away. See this link for some summary information about bird strikes in India.

No comments yet.

Leave a comment