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Noisy Project To Keep Birds Off Elmendorf Lake Island Takes Holiday Break

A noise-making campaign to rid Bird Island at Elmendorf Lake of its feathered population will take a break for the holidays, according to officials at the United States Agriculture Department.

The project to prevent dangerous bird strikes with nearby military aircraft was launched two weeks ago.

Corey Wilson, a USDA wildlife biologist, said USDA wildlife experts and volunteer airmen from Lackland Air Force Base use pyrotechnics, clappers and lasers to shoo birds off the island.

Pistols firing blanks and “screamer sirens” are part of the arsenal.

Cattle egrets from the island fly back and forth across the flight paths of Kelly Field and Lackland every day, increasing the chances of a bird strike that could bring down an aircraft. The egrets feed during the day at the Covel Gardens Landfill and then water and go to roost at sundown at Bird Island.

Wilson said the noise-making campaign is intended to permanently change their flight and nesting habits.

“Very few birds have returned back to the island," he said, "but we continue to monitor and continue to disperse the birds that do come back."

Some of the birds tried to roost at Woodlawn Lake since the noise campaign began at Bird Island at Lake Elmendorf. But USDA officials say a noise-making campaign is underway there too to keep the birds on the move.

The noise campaign stops Saturday and resumes Jan. 6, according to USDA wildlife experts.

To keep down the number of noise complaints from residents in the surrounding neighborhood, which includes Our Lady of the Lake University, all of the noise making is conducted at sundown and not sunrise, which was another option.

The USDA wildlife experts also stopped making noise during finals at the university before the holiday break.

It follows a project conducted by the city’s parks and recreation department to scrape the island of its vegetation in early December.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.