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Geese now flying with GPSGeese now flying with GPS

Ph.D. student Liz Rutledge and National Wildlife Research Center biologist Brian Washburn

Wouldn’t it be nice if airport birds could be fitted with transmitters so controllers know exactly where they are? Wait a minute, somebody has already done that.

Fifteen non-migratory geese at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C., are now wearing personal locators—transmitters that report not only the location of the birds, but their altitude and speed when in the air.

The Canada geese were chosen from a group of 770 geese that were tagged in June, a time of year when only resident geese would be in the city and the transients would have migrated. There are dozens of lakes within a few miles of the airport where geese hang out at night. At dawn and dusk they are on the move to or from feeding grounds—crossing flight paths used by the airport.

Wildlife biologist John R. Weller, based at the airport, said each goose has a solar pack that can power the transmitter for two years. They were banded at 14 sites near the airport and fitted with transmitters by Weller, Ph.D. candidate Liz Rutledge, and research biologist Brian Washburn from the National Wildlife Research Center in Sandusky, Ohio.

Weller said an airport harassment program using noisemakers has convinced most geese to avoid landing at Piedmont Triad International. Yet they remain in the city and literally cross paths with aircraft.

Since geese travel in groups, banding only 15 will reveal the location of large flocks of geese. Weller said the study would offer important information for airports nationwide. Signals are sent from the birds up to satellites, and back down to researchers.

Alton Marsh

Alton K. Marsh

Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.

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