July 18, 2018 8:04 pm
Updated: July 19, 2018 7:44 am

Falcon controlling wild birds at Saskatoon airport

WATCH ABOVE: A falcon is being used at Saskatoon International Airport to control wild birds and reduced risks to aviation traffic.


Striking a flock or even a single bird in an aircraft could be catastrophic. It’s a problem officials with SKYxe at John G. Diefenbaker Airport are addressing by bringing in more birds.

Rich Ensby, the owners of Alti Bird Control, is in charge of a new falconry program at the Saskatoon airport.

READ MORE: Second-busiest year on record for Skyxe Saskatoon Airport

“We deploy the falcons out exactly when they’re required,” he said.

Ensby has spent the last two weeks learning flight patterns and times from his vantage point on the roof. Falcons from his fleet are released between flights as necessary to control bird populations.

“If we don’t teach the falcon to actually make the kill then the falcon will chase birds all day long, and always come back for food,” he explained.

Rick Ensby, of Alti Bird Control, trains his fourth and final falcon to make up his fleet at SKYxe.

File / Global News

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At 11 weeks old, Ensby’s newest falcon is in training. Its area of expertise will be focused on gulls which are problematic at SKYxe.

“In the past we’ve had tens of birds to hundreds of birds on the property,” Andrew Leeming, SKYxe VP of operations and excellence, said.

According to Leeming, from mid-July through September it’s not uncommon to have a bird struck weekly. Birds delay flights and pose a risk of bringing down aircraft.

“That’s something that happens at every airport. What we’re looking to do is make sure we’re on a downward trend toward,” Leeming said.

By next week, Ensby’s newest falcon will join three others which are part of the fleet. Each has a different task. Some acting as a decoy just by being visible, others chasing and others flying at high altitudes acting as a beacon to other birds.

Also on the team is Ruby, a Hungarian vizsla dog.

Ruby is not fazed by the falcons. In fact, she works in unison with them by spotting the birds on the ground.

File / Global News

“She’s extremely good at finding birds in the long grass,” Ensby said.

Ruby will work in harmony with the falcons whom chase the birds roused by the dog, away. It’s a job they’ll be tasked with until migration is complete in fall.

I imagine I’ll be here until the last gull fly away and hopefully this guy here will be on its tail chasing it.”

Ensby’s newest falcon is currently nameless. The public is invited to vote for Anemoi, Sky, or Conan on the SKYxe Facebook page until July 25.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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