Vancouver International Airport’s team of trained raptors has helped managed nearly 800,000 birds over the past eight years.
The airport’s falconry program has worked with trained raptors – which currently includes six falcons, three hawks and one bald eagle – since 2011, when the falconry program was first piloted before fully launching in 2012, according to YVR.
The predatory birds help manage other birds, meaning they keep them away from planes and the airfield to ensure safe operations, along with other members of the wildlife management team.
Falconers – people who work with trained falcons – patrol the airfield seven days a week between October and April, said a spokesperson for the airport, a period which corresponds to peaks in migratory and wintering bird activity.
The falconry program falls under the umbrella of YVR’s wildlife management program.
In 2018, the latest data available, the raptors in the falconry program managed 45,000 birds at YVR, while the airport’s wildlife management program as a whole moved 956,960 animals away from runways, taxiways and aprons.
Managed birds are either counted individually, if a flock numbers 100 or less, or by estimation, according to the airport.
The raptors in the falconry program are trained by Pacific Northwest Raptors (PNWR). Training focuses on “creating a trusting human-bird partnership,” according to YVR.
The airport’s falconers also spend time with their birds every day to ensure the trained raptors are responsive to their commands and to establish a strong working bond.