Global bird culls by airports, to deter bird strike. Hundreds of thousands gassed, shot and poisoned
The issue of bird strikes for planes is an emotive one. Some collisions do little damage to planes, but hitting a large bird can disable an engine, or worse. While birds and planes co-exist, some strikes are inevitable. Rose Bridger has been looking into this subject for years. She says shortly after the Hudson incident in 2009, New York’s 3 main airports began culling Canada geese. This escaped public attention until June 2010, when wildlife officials rounded up nearly 400 birds and gassed with CO2 in a nearby buiding. In fact, the geese that downed the plane were not locals, but migrants from northern Canada. By autumn 2013 geese were being rounded up from municipal properties within a 160 square kilometre area. After a non-fatal (for the plane) collision with a flock of geese at Schiphol in 2010, 5,000 were gassed in 2012. The area where geese are deemed a hazard to aircraft was extended to cover a 20 kilometre radius around the airport, and a further 10,000 geese were gassed between January and July 2013. In January, the New York Port Authority announced plans to eliminate the entire population of 2,200 wild mute swans. And there are many, many other examples. Airports should not be built in or near important bird habitats and migratory flightpaths.
Airports’ global bird slaughter – 100,000s gassed, shot, poisoned
By Rose Bridger
18th August 2014
Airports around the world are waging a war on birds, writes Rose Bridger. It’s meant to prevent aircraft bird strikes. But in fact, fatal (for people) collisions are rare – and even killing thousands of birds does little to reduce the number of strikes. Best fly less, and keep airports away from birds!
The most effective way of minimising bird strikes, aside from constraining aviation growth so that skies are not so crowded, is not to build airports in or near important bird habitats and migratory flightpaths.
Aircraft share airspace with birds, so collisions, or ‘bird strikes’ as they’re known in the trade, are inevitable. A bird strike in New York, the ‘Hudson Miracle‘, seared the threat to aviation safety into the consciousness of air crew and passengers alike.
On 15th January 2009, Canada geese were sucked into both engines of a US Airways Airbus 320 shortly after take-off from New York’s La Guardia Airport. The speed of the aircraft magnifies the force of impact of the collision and both engines lost power.
Disaster was narrowly averted by the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, who saved the lives of all on board by successfully ditching the plane in the Hudson River.
Collisions with aircraft are almost always fatal for birds. When they are sucked into and minced up in engines the species might only be identified by DNA sequencing analysis of remains. When birds collide with the nose, wings or fuselage of a plane they leave blood smeared dents. Birds can smash through the windshield of small aircraft, leaving pilots spattered with blood.
Shortly after the Hudson incident New York’s three main airports – JFK, La Guardia and Newark – began culling Canada geese. This escaped public attention until June 2010, when wildlife officials rounded up nearly 400 birds in Prospect Park and took them to a nearby building, where they were gassed with carbon dioxide at a lethal concentration.
Residents’ shock the following day, when they found the park devoid of geese, triggered the establishment of GoosewatchNYC, a lively campaign for co-existence with urban wildlife and humane alternatives to culling.
Campaigners pointed out the futility of killing the geese. DNA testing revealed that the geese in the Hudson bird strike were not resident birds, but a migratory species which had flown south from northern Canada.
GoosewatchNYC drew attention to the carnage that would be necessary should authorities attempt to eliminate the risk of aircraft collisions with migratory birds: “In order to guarantee preventing a repeat occurrence would essentially require killing every bird on the eastern seaboard.”
While not adopting such an extreme policy, authorities increased culling. By autumn 2013 geese were being rounded up from municipal properties within a 160 square kilometrearea.
On 6th June 2010, a collision with geese brought down another plane. A Boeing 737 departing from Schiphol Airport, carrying six crew and 156 passengers, was seriously damaged when it struck a flock of geese. The pilot struggled with the controls when the left engine lost power and caught fire, but managed to land the safely back at Schiphol.
Investigators discovered the mangled carcasses of 24 geese in the landing gear and the electronics compartment. Seven more were found dead on the runway. Geese are attracted to agricultural land around the airport, and, in 2012, 5,000 were gassed.
Bird protection groups suggested planting crops that would not attract geese, but the area where geese are deemed a hazard to aircraft was extended to cover a 20 kilometre radius around the airport, and a further 10,000 were gassed between January and July 2013.
Airport kill lists
Community opposition to bird culling in New York intensified in December 2013 when snowy owls were added to the kill list. After five bird strikes at JFK involving snowy owls, in the space of just two weeks, three were shot.
In response to an online petition urging a cease fire, that quickly garnered 63,000 signatures, the Port Authority stopped killing snowy owls and committed to adopting non-lethal alternative methods. Now, snowy owls will be trapped and relocated, the most humane option, but only feasible for managing small numbers of birds.
The first ever snowy owl to be spotted near Honolulu Airport’s runways was not so lucky. Attempts to frighten it away with flares and catch it in a net failed, so a wildlife official shot it.
New York Port Authority’s reprieve for snowy owls was not extended to other species. In January, it announced plans to eliminate the entire population of 2,200 wild mute swans, aside from a few to be held in captivity.
Conveniently for the airports, landowners and authorities concurred in the view that the mute swans are ‘pests’ – and promulgated the view that, in addition to posing a risk to airliners, the birds attack people, destroy vegetation and pollute water because their droppings contain E-coli.
GooseWatchNYC founder David Karopkin pointed out that the swans had been living in the state for almost 200 years and demanded that the ‘outrageous’ plan be scrapped. Within a few weeks 50,000 people had commented on the plan and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that it would be revised.
But airports’ culling practices have exacted a heavy toll on many species of birds. In May 2014 records showed that, over a five year period, JFK Airport wildlife control officers hadshot 26,000 birds.
More than 1,600 of these were from 18 protected species that airports did not have permission to kill including red-winged blackbirds, snowy egrets and American kestrels. In spite of the slaughter, the number of collisions has not declined.
To the south, in New Jersey, the picture is similar. 6,000 animals, mainly birds, have been killed in the name of air safety. Here too, the number of collisions with aircraft has not declined.
Over on the west coast, five airports in the San Francisco Bay area shot 3,000 birds in a two-year period up to May 2013, including 57 red-tailed hawks. Medium-sized birds such as gulls, ducks and hawks, and even small birds including starlings and blackbirds are also targetted, as dense flocks can being down a plane.
Worcester Airport in Massachusetts shoots small birds including swallows, horned larks and snow bunting. Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma) Airport’s wildlife hazard management programme involves killing ‘invasive’ species, including 2,000 starlings per year.
Between 1990 and 2012 bird strike investigations throughout the US identified the remains of no less than 482 species, including loons, starlings, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, egrets, vultures, hawks, eagles, cranes, sandpipers, pigeons, owls, turkeys and blackbirds.
But the number of bird strikes has continued to rise since the Hudson incident, reaching 9,000 in 2012. The real level is probably double this amount because airlines are not required to report minor incidences. The continued rise in bird strikes gives credence to the opinion of a number of experts, who argue that culling is ineffective, creating vacant habitats that are rapidly populated by other birds.
In the aftermath of the Hudson incident airports around the world adopted a hard-line approach to birds.
Lishe Airport, on China’s east coast, which had previously dealt with migrating egrets, stopping to feed on nearby grassland, with gunshot sounds and capturing them in nets began spraying rat poison on the birds’ food sources and shooting them.
Changi responded to the post-Hudson panic by inviting the local gun club to shoot birds including white-bellied sea eagles. Following a public outcry Changi stopped shooting birds and stepped up its efforts to keep them away, by eradicating their food sources, covering up water sources and installing ‘anti-perching devices’ slopes and spikes on top of buildings, and dispersing them with lasers.
Yet airport artwork appropriates avian imagery; 1,216 bronze droplets connected to motors form the world’s largest ‘kinetic sculpture‘, moving to create a hot air balloon, a kite, a flock of birds and other flight related shapes.
Outdoor artwork at Auckland Airport includes five albatross sculptures crafted from cast iron. This whimsical installation belies the airport’s brutal approach to birdlife.
When the airport conducted its first black swan cull this July, 788 were shot from a helicopter. The swans had moved to the area because their habitat – lakes several kilometres away – was destroyed. Intensive agriculture, especially dairy herds, removed aquatic vegetation which served as their food source.
In Britain, red kites, distinctive birds of prey with angled wings and a forked tail were reintroduced to the Chiltern hills after being hunted almost to extinction. Sometimes they wander onto RAF Benson airfield, where a ‘considerable programme of non-lethal measures’ failed to prevent four collisions over the last two years. The airfield has been issued with a license to shoot red kites if there is a risk of collision with aircraft.
At least shooting kills the majority of birds quickly. At Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston, United Airlines poisoned hundreds of birds by laying out corn kernels laced with a toxin. The poison, a nerve agent, was not fast-acting; birds took up to an hour to die. Videos taken by airport employees showed pigeons and great-tailed grackles suffering convulsions.
Perhaps the cruellest method of destroying birdlife is the enlistment of another species, by the Beijing Air Force. Two monkeys were trained to remove birds’ nests, because of concerns over millions of migratory birds flying northwards during spring. Each monkey can remove between six and eight nests a day; by May, they had removed a total of about 180.
For the most part, airports use a variety of methods to make sites inhospitable to birds and frighten them, only resorting to culling should these measures fail to keep them away. Fruit trees, grasses and other plants that attract insects and small mammals that birds feed on are removed.
Sometimes vegetation is simply replaced with asphalt. Detention ponds, built to protect the airport from flooding, are covered with netting or hollow plastic balls, have steeply sloped sides and are surrounded by quarry ‘spalls’ – sharp edged stones that are painful for birds to walk on. Beyond the airport boundary, water sources that birds need for drinking and food might be filled in or covered up.
After a plane collided with two peacocks Sri Lanka’s new Mattala Airport in January, authorities began destroying habitats – removing vegetation and closing water holes, having recognised that culling would be met with protests. Yet, like many airports, Mattala is adorned with artwork suggesting an affinity with birdlife; on the approach road there is a giant metal sculpture of peacock.
Vancouver Airport’s wildlife control programme comprises predatory falcons trained to chase them away, bright lights, strings of tinsel, patrol boats and pyrotechnic noise makers. But the airport still uses shotguns. In 2010, 1,987 birds were shot, more than double the average over the previous five years. Yet the number of bird strikes for the year, 217, was higher than the average of 189 over the previous five years.
Biotechnologists in New Zealand have come up with a more comprehensive approach to habitat management. A grass that repels birds has a ‘symbiotic fungus’ growing within it, which reduces the population of insects that attract birds, and makes birds sick if they ingest it, so they don’t return.
Test plots at Christchurch, Auckland and Hamilton airports have reduced the number of birds by 95%, so this must surely be considered a success. However this also demonstrates that such approaches to reduce the risk of bird strikes will also impact on wider biodiversity.
A growing number of airports use avian radar to detect birds. It is effective at distances of up to 9.5 kilometres and can even identify species. But it tends to be used in conjunction with deterrence measures.
For example, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport also uses propane cannons, pyrotechnic shells fired from a handgun with a range of sounds to target different species and falcons. However this arsenal of dispersal methods is of limited effectiveness – last year planes collided with 333 birds, the main victims being doves.
Few fatalities from bird strikes
The manner in which airports are stepping up the slaughter would suggest that bird strikes are a major cause of serious air accidents. In fact, the vast majority of afflicted planes land safely. About 5,000 collisions with birds occur every year, but airliners are built to withstand the impact.
The Hudson bird strike, so alarming because an emergency landing on a runway was not possible, was a highly unusual occurrence of birds being sucked into both engines.
Furthermore, only a small proportion of bird strikes result in fatalities. Since 1988, wildlife strikes, predominantly birds but also animals wandering onto runways, have destroyed about 229 planes worldwide. More than 250 people were killed, but this is a small proportion of deaths caused by air accidents.
In 2013 alone there were 265 air crash fatalities, and that was the safest year on record. Over the last ten years the annual average was 720 fatalities. The majority of serious air accidents are caused by mechanical failure, bad weather, pilot error, or a chain of events involving one or more of these factors. More human lives could be saved by increasing efforts to address these aspects of air safety.
Keep airports away from birds!
And the most effective way of minimising bird strikes, aside from constraining aviation growth so that skies are not so crowded, is not to build airports in or near important bird habitats and migratory flightpaths.
The threat to birds and air safety is a key reason for opposing any new airports, or airport expansions, in areas important for birds. One such is Istanbul’s third airport, which has already commenced on wetlands and forests to the north of the city.
Another – still at an early stage where it may be successfully combatted – is the proposed new hub airport for the UK in the Thames estuary, widely known as ‘Boris Island’ thanks to the strong support given to it by London Mayor Boris Johnson.
As highlighted by RSPB, which is “vehemently opposed to the construction of an airport in the Thames Estuary and that includes any and all of the latest proposals that have come forward”, the proposed airport would devastate valuable – and highly protected – habitat that supports hundreds of thousands of year-round and migratory birds.
The Thames Estuary contains a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and five Special Protection Areas (SPA), sites protected under EU law. All of the proposed airport sites conflict with one or more of them.
More information on RoseBridger.com.
Rose Bridger (@RoseKBridger) is the author of Plane Truth: Aviation’s Real Impact on People and the Environment, published by Pluto Press.
Nakuru, Kenya film
Good short video (2 mins 30 seconds) about a proposed airport at Nakuru, in Kenya, stopped in 2012 because of the remarkable and unique local birdlife on the lake, that attracts a lot of tourists. The bird life (malibou storks, flamingoes etc) would have been completely incompatible with an airport.
Monday, 18 August 2014
[The original article contains sixvideo clips and images]
Airports are waging a war against birdlife
Here is some additional information, with videos, to accompany my latest article for The Ecologist, (see above) about collisions between aircraft and birds (bird strikes).
Since a serious air accident was narrowly averted in New York on 15 January 2009, when the pilot landed a plane in the Hudson River after geese were sucked into both engines on departure from La Guardia Airport, awareness of the risk to air safety has been heightened. The video below shows the moments immediately after it landed in the river, note the remarkable speed of the evacuation as the plane filled with water.
Yet for all the furore over the problem of bird strikes the fate of birds is rarely mentioned. Many thousands are killed every year, when they are sucked into planes’ engines and leave blood smeared dents when they hit the nose, wings or fuselage of an aircraft. Birds can also be injured and killed by the jet blast from aircraft, as at Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu, where the carcasses of two black kites and a spotted owl were discovered in March. These are just two of the 39 species of birds flying around the airport, at which there were 22 bird strikes in 2013 alone, and a fatal incident in 2012. Nineteen people were killed when a bird strike caused engine failure on a plane departing for the Mount Everest region. There have been many instances of large birds crashing through the windshield of small aircraft, splattering the pilots with blood. This harrowing video shows the moment when a Canada goose crashes through the windshield of a Cessna plane shortly after take-off from a small airfield in Illinois. Fortunately the pilot made a safe emergency landing and he and the co-pilot were unharmed.
Airports around the world have stepped up efforts to keep birds away from planes, deploying a bewildering array of methods: habitat management to make vegetation and water bodies unattractive to birds, and deterrence programmes such as loud noises, lasers and predatory falcons trained to frighten them away. But when these methods fail, or are inadequately implemented, airports frequently resort to culling birds. In the aftermath of the ‘Hudson miracle’ geese are culled over a wide radius around New York’s main airports. The geese are shot or gassed. Another approach, preferred by many bird advocacy groups, is to coat goose eggs with vegetable oil to stop them hatching, undertaken at many airports including Winnipeg and Vancouver.
A non-lethal bird control method is to trap and relocate them. But this is only used for small bird populations, typically rare species which have been afforded legal protection. Since 2001, Sea-Tac Airport has successfully trapped and relocated 400 young raptors to an appropriate habitat in northern Washington. Boston Logan Airport traps and relocated snowy owls, and New Yorks’s main airports were persuaded to adopt this approach in the light of a campaign against an announcement that wildlife officials would begin shooting snowy owls, after three bird strikes involving this species.
Another method used by some airports to kill birds is poisoning; An employee at New Plymouth Airport in New Zealand was appalled when he discovered that corn chips laced with poison were being laid out to kill birds considered a risk to planes, including sparrows. Video evidence of birds being poisoned emerged recently, when members of staff at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston witnessed the effects of United Airlines’ poisoning pigeons and great-tailed grackles, in cooperation with Houston Airport System. Birds are shown suffered convulsions and it took up to an hour for them to die. The poisoning at Bush Airport was not a one-off, it takes place on an annual basis.
Smaller birds can also endanger flights. The video below was taken at Manchester Airport in 2007, at the start you can see a bird, a crow, being sucked into the engine. The plane made a safe landing but it appears that the airport began to take a more hostile approach to birdlife. In 2009 Manchester Airport informed that National Trust of its intention to shoot 800 rooks nesting in nearby woodlands, but announced a reprieve in response to a petition from local residents.
In May, the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) made an unsuccessful attempt to stop BAE Systems culling 1,100 black-backed gulls on the Ribble estuary, on the north west cost of England, in order to allay safety fears at nearby Warton Aerodrome. A judge ruled against an appeal, permission to kill the birds, almost one-fifth of the breeding population, was granted in addition to existing consents to cull 200 pairs of the same species of gull and 500 pairs of herring gulls. UK military airfields’ attitude to birds may harden further in the light of investigators’ confirmation that a fatal US Air Force helicopter accident on 7th January 2014 was due to a multiple bird strike. The helicopter crashed into saltmarshes in Norfolk, killing all four crew members. At least three geese crashed through the windscreen and another struck the nose of the plane.
New habitat management and deterrence methods only promise partial solutions to bird strikes. A system using low-frequency sounds, below the range of human hearing, to deter birds, has proved effective in tests. Hopefully,this will prove effective within airport sites, but it is unlikely to be feasible over the far larger areas where birds pose a risk to aircraft, on the take-off and landing flightpaths. 3-D printed robotic replicas of birds of prey – eagles and falcons – to frighten away target species. Again, this will only be effective in the immediate vicinity of runways.
It is clear that new airports must not be located near major bird habitats and migratory routes. Devastation of birdlife is a key factor in vigorous opposition to proposals for a new airport in London’s Thames Estuary and on forested land to the north of Istanbul, where construction has commenced and a recent protest was met by riot police. In other instances, sanity has prevailed. The Georgian government has abandoned plans for an airport on marshlands in Poti and, construction of an airport in Nakuru, Kenya, has been stalled in recognition of the risk to air safety and birdlife including storks, pelicans and flamingos, as shown in the video below.
Birds do pose a risk to air safety, but, as explained in the article, the war that is being waged against them by airports is an over-reaction. The vast majority of stricken planes land safely and only a small proportion of serious air accidents are due to bird strikes. Airports should make every effort to keep birds away through habitat modification and deterrence, before resorting to culling, and more air accidents can be prevented by focussing on programmes to address the mechanical failures and human errors which lead to a far greater number of accidents and fatalities.
Report for Airports Commission on environmental impact sinks Boris’s estuary airport plans
Boris Johnson’s dreams of a massive airport in the Thames Estuary have had a major setback, from the new report produced for the Airports Commission, looking at the environmental impacts. The study shows it would cause huge environmental, financial and safety risks and would cause “large scale direct habitat loss” to hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. The cost of creating replacement habitats could exceed £2 billion and may not even be possible. Even if replacement habitat could be found, planes using the airport would still be at a “high risk” of lethal bird strike. In order to counter this risk, even larger areas of habitat would need to be destroyed to secure the airport. The report also found huge regulatory hurdles to any potential estuary airport going ahead. Under environmental regulations,the airport’s backers would have to prove there were “imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI)” for placing the airport in such an environmentally sensitive area. Even if that could be proven, they would also need to demonstrate that all of the habitat displaced by the airport could be placed elsewhere. The report found that while this was “technically possible,” it was highly uncertain, as such a large scale displacement had never been attempted before.
Belfast boy wants alternative home for geese facing cull for safety of Belfast City Airport planes
A 10-year-old boy – Jack McCormick – has appealed to Belfast’s Lord Mayor to have geese, considered to be posing a threat to low-flying aircraft, moved to another park. The Lord Mayor has promised to raise the issues in a meeting with George Best Belfast City Airport. “I am an animal lover and would hate to think of anything bad happening to the grey geese at the park,” Jack wrote: “My papa takes me to a great park in Gilnahirk …. It is big, but it has no geese or any animals. Why not move some of your geese from Victoria Park to the park at Gilnahirk? I would make sure that they were well-looked after. If you can’t move them to Gilnahirk, could you not move them to other parks around Belfast?” The authorities prick the eggs so they don’t develop. Jack said (children aren’t stupid!): “Last year I noticed that there wasn’t that many goslings but this year I’m hoping there will be an increase,” he said. “I don’t want any of them to die just because of being near an airport. To be fair, the geese were there first, and then the airport was built there.”
Daily Mail claim of sharp rise in birdstrikes not borne out by the facts from CAA
The Daily Mail, it being the “silly season” with no news, had done an article on an alleged increase in the number air birdstrikes by aircraft between 2009 and 2012. However, the data published by the CAA up to March 2013 do not bear out the Mail’s claims of a doubling in three years. The CAA produces data on reported birdstrikes, and on confirmed strikes – the latter being a much lower number than the former. For instance, in 2012 there were 2215 reported birdstrikes, and 1404 confirmed strikes. Some of the increase in reporting may be due to changed reporting requirements of incidents to the CAA. The species hit most often in recent years have been various species of gulls (together the largest group), then swallows, skylarks, swifts and woodpigeons, then pigeons and kestrels. The number of birdstrikes rose significantly after 2008, when the CAA introduced a new system through which all strikes can easily be reported online. It has been mandatory for all strikes to be reported since 2004.
Airports using a biotech high alkaloid endophytic form of grass to deter insects and birds
A form of grass – with the trade name Avanex – has been developed by a firm in New Zealand, Grasslanz Technology and commercialised by PGG Wrightson Turf. It has been designed to be endophytic, which means it incorporates a form of fungus that produces a high amount of alkaloids. This makes the grass distasteful to insects, and so the areas sown with this grass have no or few insects, and consequently few birds. The grass can be toxic to animals and comes with health warnings about livestock eating it. However, airports are enthusiastic to use the grass in order to deter birds and hence the risk of bird strike. The grass has so far been trialled in New Zealand airports since 2010 and found to cut bird numbers by large amounts, making airports very sterile areas, which is what the airport operators want. However, the blurb says “The grass could also be used at sports stadiums, golf courses and even domestic lawns,” so the company wants to use its biodiversity-destroying product even more widely.
CAA data shows 1529 birdstrikes in 2011, up from 1278 in 2009
The CAA reports that bird strikes are on the increase throughout the UK, with 1529 reported last year – up from 1278 in 2009. For Scotland the CAA has said bird strikes have risen at Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness airports over the past 2 years, with an increase in wild flocks and air traffic blamed. Bird strikes have been blamed for bringing down huge aircraft in the past, including the incident in 2009 where an Airbus A320 was forced to ditch in the Hudson river in New York. Glasgow Airport reported 8 strikes this year involving large birds, up from the usual annual average of 3. The Herald Scotland gives information about increases at Scottish airports.
“More geese may have to be culled” at Leeds-Bradford Airport
The airport’s operations director says more geese may be culled to ensure the safety of planes. He said urgent action was needed from time to time, and recently met with residents protesting against the killing of geese at Yeadon Tarn last year. He said measures such as egg picking were already in place – but sometimes it was necessary to react quickly to a particular problem. The airport already used scaring tactics to deflect the geese but had a duty to ensure safety. “We have got to be prepared if suddenly a flock of geese descend and set up a roost somewhere in the locality, and then decide to fly across the airport. We have got to be able to deal with that.”
Leeds Bradford Airport bosses vow to change Canada Geese cull
Airport chiefs, who ordered a cull of 10 Canada Geese at a Leeds beauty spot, YeadonTarn, have said they find other ways to control the population. There was no local consultation about the cull beforehand.Food and Environment Research Agency officers shot the flock, which was deemed “a significant risk to aircraft”, in September by closing the green space to dog walkers in the early hours. Plans for an £11million expansion of the airport, which could be completed by this summer, had sparked further fears of culls. A meeting took place recently between the airport and angry local residents.
Birds of prey and robot bird being used to keep birds away from airports
East Midlands airport is to use the assistance of an eagle owl, owned by GB Pest Control, to help keep pigeons away from flight paths. They see traditional methods as equally effective as chemical based pest control or shooting, and far better for the environment. In the Netherlands, a company has produced a remarkably life-like flying robot bird, the Ro-Bird, which flaps realistically and is apparently effective in chasing off birds.