BUZZARDS BEWARE

The US Air Force is gearing up for a bird massacre in the English countryside

Soon-to-be endangered on British air force bases.
Soon-to-be endangered on British air force bases.
Image: Reuters/Thomas Krumenacker
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The county of Cambridgeshire in eastern England is known for its medieval college town, miles of marshy lowlands, and plethora of bird life. The latter poses some ongoing hazards for US Air Force pilots stationed there. According to a recently released federal-contracting document, the US military is looking to hire a wildlife-control expert for a four-year job that will “focus on eliminating or minimizing wildlife hazards for safe air and ground support operations” at two bases in Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

The US Air Force, which has thousands of personnel at British Royal Air Force bases at Lakenheath and Mildenhall, seeks to “reduce the attraction of wildlife to the airbase” and “deny the use of airspace to birds there.”

Qualified vendors “shall perform bird and wildlife control necessary to repel, capture, or kill as authorized,” the Air Force bid request states. “The contractor shall provide any air rifles or other hunting weapons as well as the necessary ammunition. The contractor shall furnish munitions storage.” It adds, “The contractor shall retrieve and properly dispose of the remains of all disabled, maimed or dead animals from the airfield/aerodrome area in accordance with UK laws and regulations.”

The contractor may also use dogs, “non-lethal harassment” (aka firecrackers), as well as “trapping, relocation, depredation, removal, disposal, airfield patrol, [and] perimeter fence monitoring,” among other options.

The winning bidder will further be required to “negotiate with landowners in a 3-mile radius around the base to destroy nests,” in an attempt to prevent breeding, explains an accompanying statement. “Current data shows that on [on RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall] an estimated 400 nests are removed per year, and the off base estimate is 1,200 nests per year,” says a supplement to the contracting documents.

Over the past two years, aircraft at both bases have been struck by dozens of birds, including golden plovers, nighthawks, pigeons, swifts, meadow pipits, and at least one buzzard, according to a list attached to the solicitation. The airfields have employed falconers for many years to scare away birds, and the new contract is a continuation of existing anti-bird efforts.

RAF Lakenheath bird strikes

RAF Mildenhall bird strikes

(The acronyms above are airport codes: EGUN = RAF Mildenhall, LEZG= Zaragoza, Spain, GQNO=Mauritania, and HDAM=Djibouti.)

Preventing collisions between aircraft and birds is an issue for the US Air Force all across the globe. For example, in South Dakota, according to the Associated Press, the DoD uses a $150,000 “bird abatement system, which is comprised of a rotating cannon and a 20-gallon propane tank.”

The Air Force contracting officers overseeing the bidding process did not immediately respond to a request for comment.