MANCHESTER, NH – It’s a straight shot from Quebec City to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, as the crow flies.
Or more to the point, as the snowy owl flies.
This matters because migrating snowy owls have been making appearances at the New Hampshire airport, according to this Concord Monitor story, posing a threat to aircraft traffic.
According to Deputy Airport Director Brian O’Neill, snowy owls were first spotted in the spring, and have returned for the winter, forcing airport personnel to “harass and scare” the birds away from runways and surrounding areas using FAA-approved programs that don’t harm the birds.
In Massachusetts, MassAudubon.org has been involved in tracking snowy owls for several years, after the birds became an issue at Logan Airport in Boston. The owls would stop at Logan during their migration from north to south and back, stopping in areas that looked like their Arctic home – flat with grassy patches and an abundance of small mammals to feed on, according to the site.
While the presence of the owls helps reduce other bird populations known to interfere with aircraft, according to Mass Audubon because of their size – up to 5 pounds – they actually pose a threat of their own.
Their numbers at Logan led to an owl relocation program, which also involves the use of pyrotechnics to scare the owls away – similar to tactics being used at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
Last winter’s abundant migrating owl population, known as an irruption, had Mass Audubon workers relocating owls from Logan to Plum Island’s Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
A July 2014 report from the FAA and USDA on “Wildlife Strikes to Civil Aircraft in the United States” cited bird strikes as a “serious aviation safety issue.” From 1988 to 2013, 243 aircraft globally were destroyed by bird and other wildlife strikes, according to the report. It was a flock of Canada geese that caused a US Airways flight to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009.
Although O’Neill told the Concord Monitor that owls have not been on the runway in Manchester, they have been on the airfield.