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City Of San Antonio Crew Clears Vegetation To Keep Birds Away From Flight Paths

Parks and recreation crews have cleared Bird Island in Elmendorf Lake of its nesting vegetation for cattle egrets. The project aims to help prevent bird strikes with military aircraft from Lackland Air Force Base and Kelly Field.

USDA wildlife biologist Cory Wilson said the egrets like to feed at a nearby landfill, and they roost and water at Elmendorf Lake. But in the process they cross major military flight paths and Kelly's runway.

Officials with Joint Base San Antonio have reported that local collisions between birds and aircraft, known as bird strikes, affect operational readiness.

Wilson said the shift in habitat may help change the birds' flight patterns.

But local bird watcher Charlie Manoli said on Thursday that he can't believe the habitat is gone.

"I was here on Monday when they started this," he explained. "This island is completely different than it was on Monday. They have defoliated and destroyed this island already, in just four days."

Manoli believed the island clearing went too far.

Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
Visitors are warned about the noise campaign to drive away the birds.

"I don't understand why anybody would destroy a habitat for these magnificent birds over the Air Force," he said. "I mean, we're living in Texas. I need the Air Force to protect me like I need a freaking hole in the head. You know what I mean?"

Tim Woliver, assistant to the director of the city's Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, emphasized that the city's relationship with the Air Force is a top priority because makes major contributions to the local economy.

The USDA will also use sight deterrents like air dancers — inflatable fabric tubes attached to electrical fans — and noisemakers to discourage the birds from returning to the island.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled the first name of the assistant to the director of the city's Office of Military and Veteran Affairs. He is Tim Woliver.

Carson Frame contributed to this report.
Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.