Huge flock of migrating waders
New early warning system could reduce building collisions. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

‘Acoustic lighthouse’ warning system for birds

Following on from our recent posts about the mortal danger man-made structures pose to birds in flight, there is fresh hope from the world of science.

Hundreds of millions of birds die every year as a result of collision with tall structures such as skyscrapers and wind turbines.

So-called ‘bird friendly’ materials including ceramic frit patterns on glass, shutters and screens can help reduce the carnage.

Potentially more exciting, however, is trial technology called the ‘acoustic lighthouse’.

Revealed something

John Swaddle from the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA revealed something of the new experimental research at this month’s (February) American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting.

Swaddle says one of the reasons birds crash into buildings is that their vision is largely directed toward the ground and to the side while flying. “They have evolved to use navigation and foraging cues on the ground and their eyes are placed more to the sides of their skulls than in humans.

Black-tailed godwits in flight
Birds don’t look where they are going in flight. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Texting while driving

“In other words, they aren’t looking where they are going, somewhat like someone texting while driving.”

The research group’s acoustic lighthouse idea would project a conspicuous sound out in front of a structure. “The novelty of the sound will attract the visual attention of a flying bird and increase the chances it will take evasive action,” he says.

And tests with captive birds indicate it works. “Birds slowed their flight speed twice as much, altered their flight posture to enable greater maneuverability, and some even avoided the structure when exposed to the acoustic lighthouse.”

Commercialisation of the acoustic lighthouse is expected to follow successful field trials.

Natural Images 2018

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©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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