Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Scare or otherwise deter birds from airports

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two replicated studies in the UK and USA found that fewer birds (mainly gulls Larus spp.) used areas of long grass at airports.
  • However, no data were provided on the effect of long grass on strike rates or mortality of birds.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated study in the UK (Brough & Bridgman 1980) found that fewer birds used grass on Royal Air Force airfields when it was allowed to grow long, compared to when it was kept short. In 1967-1968, ten English airfields were included, with data from 1972-1973 available for three more airfields (including one in Scotland and one in Wales). Grass was kept 15-20 cm high in some areas whilst others were maintained at 5-10 cm. The repellent effect of long grass was almost 100% for gulls Larus spp. and golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, and very good for northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus and crows (rook Corvus frugilegus, carrion crow C. corone, Eurasian jackdaw C. monedula).

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated study in June-August 1985-6 at Kennedy International Airport, New York City, USA (Buckley & McCarthy 1994), found that fewer laughing gulls Larus atricilla were found on areas of grass allowed to grow long, than on short-cropped areas. Thirty-six plots across three experimental blocks were used, with long grass being grown to 45 cm in length and short-cropped areas kept at 5 cm.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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