Zooming in On Bird Control

John Ghan

Bird control for airports and landfills offer a significant challengebecause of the fact that these areas offer a great source for birds to eat, roost and nothave natural predators in the area. Landflls are regulated by the EPA and in someinstances, the FAA when located within six miles of an airport. It is well known thatbirds, more specifcally gulls, are feeding at landfll sites throughout the world. Theirnumbers are constantly increasing and they have become regular visitors to landfllsites where they fnd not only food, but also water and a place to nest and/or roost.Their presence creates problems in many ways. Their control is particularly importantfor the health and safety of both employee's onsite and the surrounding residents.Their concentration is not only hazardous to aircraft, but there have also been twonew studies from Portugal and the largest infectious-disease conference (ICAAC) inthe U.S. that have shown that samples taken from seagulls harbor bacteria that isresistant to antibiotics and carry the E. coli bacteria. This is very troublesome as theyare able to fy thousands of miles and are often seen at beaches, restaurant parkinglots and landflls.

There are different types of seagulls in the U.S., from the less aggressivelaughing seagull found on the east coast to the very aggressive Californiaseagull found on the west coast. Seagulls, in particular, are beautiful infight; however, they are proving to be more of a problem than once thought.The CA seagull in the Bay area has grown 33 fold and there are currently more than36,000 seagulls in the area. Scaring them away is a full time job as there are alwaysnew birds that come into the landfll.

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Thursday, Jul. 07, 2011
Foam remote-control device built to scare birds in Horry County
By Brad Dickerson -

Jon Ghan's pet eagle glides through the sky, its cries catching the attention of the hundreds of seagulls who see it coming and quickly flee.

There's just one catch: This particular eagle is made out of foam.

"Our system is designed to mimic ... a golden eagle predator," Ghan said.

Ghan oversees his own business, Bye-Bye Birdie, and created the remote-control device he's been testing at the Horry County landfill, where thousands of seagulls rummage through the garbage. A fear is the birds could spread diseases.

Remote-control devices have been a hobby of Ghan's for a while now, and he's hoping to use his service at local businesses where birds are both a nuisance and a possible safety hazard.

Ghan said the most effective means of scaring birds away is to use live falcons, but that would mean a licensed falconer would have to handle several birds at a landfill throughout the day.

With this device, Ghan is just one man handling one remote-controlled rig instead of alicensed bird handler who could spend several thousand dollars on falcons.

According to American, those wanting to keep just one bird must have a state and federal falconry license. Equipment and housing facilities cost $1,000.
In creating his device, Ghan acted off a bird's fear of predators, such as the bald eagle.

The device is made out of expanded polypropylene, a durable type of foam. The body is 21/2-feet long with a 61/2-foot wingspan.

But the crown jewel of the device might be its sound system, a 2.4-gigahertz transmitter with a range of more than two miles. It plays back the sound of an eagle's screech.
"More than anything, it's the actual sight of the bird," Ghan said.

Bill Hilling, operations director with the Horry County Solid Waste Authority, said they often have between 12 and 18 of the real birds at the landfill in the fall that chase the annoying seagulls away.

Ghan said there's a window of around six months where the landfill has issues with the birds - usually during the summer. During his initial demonstration, there were about 8,000 seagulls.

That number has diminished since Ghan's test runs began several weeks ago.

Of course, like any device, there are limitations. Ghan said he can't fly his eagle if it's raining.

Plus, if new birds come to the landfill, he'd have to be there to scare that new group off all over again.

Of airports and landfills

Probably the biggest limitation is the fact that Ghan didn't build the eagle in the hopes of using it at landfills. His target was airports.

However, he changed his mind after seeing all the "red tape" he'd have to cut through to get a contract through the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ghan's motivation for building the eagle came after he investigated bird strikes following the infamous "Miracle on the Hudson" flight of January 2009.

Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger safely landed a U.S. Airways plane in New York's Hudson River after the aircraft lost power when a flock of geese flew into its engines shortly after takeoff from La Guardia Airport.

At Myrtle Beach International Airport, crews are required almost daily to "haze and harass" winged visitors that like to congregate on and near the runway. "We have to keep the runways and taxiways free of obstructions," said airport executive director Michael LaPier, who came here from Sacramento, the airport with the fourth-highest number of bird-plane collisions in the country.

LaPier said the crews at Myrtle Beach International drive around and shoo the birds off with "bird bangers," which are like firecrackers shot from a special gun. They also use real guns with blank loads in them.

The FAA's bird-strike database shows that between Jan. 13 and July 22, 2010, there were 13 bird strikes at Myrtle Beach's airport. All types of birds are seen at the airport, but most of the 2010 strikes were because of little killdeers and mourning doves.

Landfill lessons

Hilling said the Horry County landfill has traditionally used noisemakers to chase birds away.

He's been impressed with Ghan's system, but right now, the landfill can't invest in it.

Hilling said the SWA's budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year was set in stone when he and Ghan started talking.

Ghan offered an hourly rate to come out and scare away the birds, Hilling said. In his proposal, he said he'd stay out there eight hours a day at $150 an hour for the first two weeks.

Hilling said the landfill will look at the proposal again at a later date.

"I think it's pretty awesome, the way it works," Hilling said.

Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2011
By Alan Blondin -

When four geese landed at Eagle Nest Golf Club in the late 1980s, they were a welcomed oddity.

The birds always appeared majestic and intelligent as they passed overhead in their organized V-formation flight patterns, migrating to and from Canada. And they were just visiting.

"They only stayed two weeks, so they were probably only passing through," said then Eagle Nest superintendent Max Morgan of his first experience with the birds.

They're not migrating any more, and nothing about them is regal for golf course operators and superintendents along the Grand Strand. "They're just a plain old nuisance," Morgan said.

Jon Ghan moved to the Strand from Springfield, Mo., in February and has started a company that gives course operators one alternative to try to rid their layout of the pests.

Ghan's company is Bye-Bye Birdies, and he uses imitation birds that are essentially remote-controlled model planes to chase geese from the property.

Ghan's plan to rid an area of geese is two-fold. He harasses them with a 30-inch-wide Hydro Falcon that can land and be powered in water with a propeller. That is combined with an imitation eagle made of durable foam with a 5-foot wing span. It features a loud recorded squawk of an eagle that can be activated, and flies and glides as high as 2000 feet.

"I mirror what happens in nature," Ghan said. "The geese see it as a natural predator and they leave the area."

Ghan said he is also permitted to destroy goose eggs, which can't be disturbed by the general public. He usually punctures them with a barbecue skewer, fooling the mother goose to continue incubating them though they'll never hatch.

Ghan tested the products in Missouri but didn't contract with anyone because he thought the Strand would be a good place to start his business. He hopes to get about 30 percent of his business from golf courses, and much of the rest from homeowner associations, landfills and airports.

Ghan said, he believes it would take about three months to rid a course of the birds. He estimates he'd spend two hours a day at a course for the first month, and then operate his imitation birds every two or three days for another two months.

He gave a demonstration for Morgan and other course officials last week at Wachesaw Plantation East, one of 14 courses operated by Myrtle Beach National Co. Morgan is MBN's Director of Golf Course Maintenance Operations.

Morgan said MBN is still considering the service. "It was a little pricey," Morgan said. "I'm fairly confident it would work, though. It certainly has some merit. If you had a bad enough problem you could probably justify spending the money. It's nice to know it's out there."

Geese can physically impede golfers and shots, they have feces comparable in size to dog feces that is unsanitary and often has to be swept from a green before it is mowed, they sometimes peck and pull out ryegrass winter overseed seedlings, and they will eat weed grasses such as poa annua and spread the seeds through their feces.

"When I got into the business there were no geese in 1981," Morgan said. "... By the time I left Myrtlewood in 1999 they were starting to become a problem."
An issue with geese can escalate in a hurry because a female goose will typically have anywhere from three to 11 hatchlings each spring. "In three years you can go from 20 to 120 and now you've got a real problem," Morgan said.

Some courses have employed collie dogs in recent years, and Myrtle Beach National has taken part in a S.C. Department of Natural Resources program that rounds up many of the geese once a year. DNR representatives set up fences on fairways and round up as many geese as they can. Morgan said the geese are used to feed the homeless in shelters.

The roundups are done during about a three-week period in the spring when geese molt some of their larger feathers just after their eggs hatch so they can't fly away from their young. Morgan said the program removed 98 geese from Wachesaw East last year and about 30 at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club on U.S. 501. Morgan said the program includes costs of $275 for a permit and $5.50 per removed goose.

Ghan said he also gave a demonstration to officials at the Horry County Landfill this week and managed to chase thousands of sea gulls at least temporarily from the site, so he's preparing a proposal for the landfill. He's expecting to perform a demonstration at Myrtle Beach International Airport. Some airfields use live falcons to scare other birds away and keep them from flight paths.

"Hopefully I'll be in the position where I'll need to hire one or two people after a month or two," Ghan said.

Wind and rain can hamper the effectiveness or ability to fly Ghan's imitation birds. Information on his service is available at

Carolina Live WPDE Channel 15
by Joel Allen
Posted: 04.26.2011 at 6:14 PM

HORRY COUNTY, SC -- Golf course groundskeepers have tried repellants, traps, fences and just about everything else they can think of to get rid of Canada geese that leave droppings on fairways and greens. Most removal methods are spotty at best. The same is true for landfills looking to get rid of nuisance sea gulls.

Now, a Conway man has come up with a potential solution that mimics Mother Nature's bird-removal system.

It uses radio-controlled model planes that look and sound like an eagle and a falcon. Jon Ghan brought his business, Bye-Bye Birdies, to the Grand Strand in February to take advantage of the area's many golf courses and their geese problems.

Ghan says some other bird-removal services use live falcons to scare birds away from places where they're not wanted - airport runways, for example. He says his fake raptors work just as well as the live ones, for half the cost.

"It's very effective. It's not what you'd call a silver bullet. On too-windy of a day or if it's raining a lot you can't fly and it does require repetitive flying," Ghan said.

A recent demonstration at the Horry County landfill led operations manager Bill Hilling to believe that it works.

"It's amazing what it does. It actually tickled me the first time we did it, the way they scattered," Hilling said.

A 100-decibel sound system embedded in the fake eagle's fuselage emits loud squawks and squeals that sound real enough to send sea gulls that have an innate fear of the predators scattering in all directions.

To work effectively, Ghan says he'd have to come back to the landfill a number of times to get the message across to the gulls.

"I would actually fly (the eagle) for about a week to two weeks, pretty much all day long and then after that it would probably turn out to every other day, to every third day, once the birds know that a raptor is living here full time."

Ghan doesn't have a contract to provide his services to the landfill yet, but Hilling says the Solid Waste Authority is considering it and Ghan has done demonstrations for area golf course managers. He believes it's a matter of time before his business gets off the ground in a big way.

"When it's flying, you can see the effects that it has. It's pretty effective."