Meet the Falcons Keeping North American Runways Safe

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You can’t fight fire with fire, but you can fight birds with birds.

A new short film from Great Big Story highlights the growing problem of bird strikes—collisions between birds and planes—and a solution that’s been embraced by a number of airports around the world: falcons. The predatory birds “are the great white shark of the sky,” says Mark Adam, the president of Canada-based Falcon Environmental Services, who is featured in the film. “[Other] birds are terrified of them.”

Large fowl such as gulls and geese can severely damage and even take down planes when they fly into engines and windshields, and they routinely cause emergency landings. Trained from birth using millennia-old techniques, falcons are deployed strategically by their handlers to shoo these nuisance birds off of runways. New York, Toronto, Montreal, Sacramento, Belgrade and many other cities have made use of the avian predators on their airfields. Airports also use sirens, pyrotechnics, radar systems, and dogs as bird-strike mitigations. But according to Adam, falcons are particularly effective because they strike the most primal fear into the hearts of other birds.