SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento has one of the highest rates of bird strikes in the nation. Airport officials will soon be testing a new radar which could help identify flocks of birds that are flying dangerously close to aircraft.

Every pilot that takes off and lands at Sacramento International Airport hears this radio warning from the control tower: “use caution for bird activity in the vicinity of the airport.”

Sacramento sits along the Pacific Flyway, a migratory route millions of birds use each year between Canada and South America. It’s a dangerous situation when the birds get too close to aircraft.

Airport spokesperson Samantha Mott said there are about 150 bird strikes in Sacramento every year.

Just a few birds can cause a catastrophe. The “miracle on the Hudson” in 2009 is the most famous example when the US Airways flight hit a flock of geese shortly after takeoff and lost power to both engines.

Now Sacramento’s airport is installing new technology to minimize the risk of birds damaging planes. The avian radar system is designed to track flocks and even individual birds flying up to five miles away from the airfield.

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The warning is relayed to the airport’s wildlife managers.

“The technology will allow our biologists to have real-time data when there may be birds in the area and then they can use any number of tools at their disposal to discourage the birds from coming closer to the airport,” Mott said.

It’s a new tool to help wildlife managers mitigate potential dangers in the sky before planes are impacted.

Mott said this technology will be able to alert managers of dangers that they couldn’t typically see with their own eyes or with binoculars.

The avian radar will be evaluated over the next 12 months and the program costs $133,000.


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