Falcons at the ready - Malaga airport’s bird patrols gear up to protect flights in high season

Members of the falconry team at Malaga airport.
Members of the falconry team at Malaga airport. / SUR
  • The airport's wildlife committee has met to discuss safety measures to prevent a buildup of birds interfering with planes

The group of falcons at Malaga airport, used to keep other birds from interfering in the takeoff and landing of planes, is gearing up for high season. Birds on or near the runway or approach routes can pose a risk to flights.

The falcons were just one of the measures to control the movement of birds in the area which were explained in a recent meeting held by the airport’s wildlife committee. The number of flights a day at the airport is due to rise significantly in the coming weeks as the summer season starts.

The wildlife committee consists of representatives from the local councils of Malaga, Alhaurín de la Torre, Torremolinos and Cártama, among others. Representatives from the provincial government and the department of the environment of the Junta de Andalucía were also present at the meeting.

These were joined by members of Aena, the airport authority, and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.

Problems such as how to stop unauthorised landfill sites, which could attract flocks of birds, in the Guadalhorce valley area surrounding the airport were also discussed.

The committee also recognised the need to focus their efforts on identifying and controlling the amount of unauthorised pigeon coups and removing ponds, pools and other types of surface water which could attract the attention of birds.

They also cited Malaga’s geographical location as a migration route between Europe and Africa, the favourable weather conditions in the area and the food available to the birds as reasons why there is a strong presence of birds in the Guadalhorce valley.

The committee agreed to carry out several studies to improve knowledge of the population of birds, the typology of the species present and their movements throughout the valley.

The Aena airport authority emphasised the importance of working together with local government in reducing the number of birds “that could pose a danger to air transport, which is of vital socioeconomic importance to the region.”

The airport has been working on this issue for thirty years, using falconers who are part of the wildlife control service and responsible for the training of several falcons that provide a 24-hour service.

The falconers train the birds of prey to fly around different parts of the airport at various times of the day to make it clear to other birds that this is a zone that they control.

The meeting comes as high season starts, during which planes will fly to 126 different destinations with 15.5 million seats available.