ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The 97th Air Mobility Wing flight safety office and the 97th Civil Engineering Squadron environmental office teamed up to research dove migration patterns by using a banding technique.
Banding is a tool utilized by wildlife biologists to help track and manage different animal populations. Mourning doves are the most common bird hit by aircraft, and therefore, they are the main focus of banding at AAFB.
“Altus AFB complies with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by utilizing conservation measures to minimize adverse mission impacts on migratory birds,” said Kelly Niland, 97th CES natural resources program manager. “Keeping doves away by removing habitat around the airfield reduces their chances of being killed by aircraft and reduces the need for depredation to prevent strikes on base.”
Adam Kohler, 97th AMW wildlife biologist, explains that when information is gathered from the bird with a band, the flight safety office stores that in a large system that tracks the migration movements.
“Any time somebody sees or captures a bird they can report that information back,” said Kohler. “That information is used…to follow large populations across the entire U.S.”
Bird strikes can cause serious issues if flown into an engine. To prevent this, wildlife biologists take different approaches like relocating habitats, dispersion or lethal control and dove hunting.
“(The dove hunt is) intended to boost morale and help supplement the program by removing species frequently involved in aircraft strikes,” said Niland. “It also helps the ecosystem when invasive pigeons and European collared doves are harvested.”
The BASH program electronically bands the birds to easily track their movement in the area. The electronic banding is called the Motus Wildlife Tracking System, which uses radio telemetry over vast distances.
“We're going to put up a series of antennas that receive radio transmissions from electronic bands and can track multiple bird species,” said Kohler. “This system is used throughout the U.S., therefore we would be giving information to other researchers as well as getting their information.”
Bird banding not only prevents aircraft damage but also is a way the environmental and safety offices can ensure flight crew safety when executing the mission of Altus AFB.