Bird strikes are a constant threat at airports all around the world. Birds are attracted by the wide open spaces of the airport runways, and large flocks can cause serious problems to aircraft that are landing or taking off. On Lanzarote, the main bird problems come from seabirds, as well as egrets and pigeons.

If you see the unmistakable silhouette of a Golden Eagle or a Buzzard winging its way around the Lanzarote Airport, don’t be too surprised. These birds are working animals which provide a unique and valuable service, improving safety for anyone who boards a flight here.

Bird strikes are a constant threat at airports all around the world. Birds are attracted by the wide open spaces of the airport runways, and large flocks can cause serious problems to aircraft that are landing or taking off. On Lanzarote, the main bird problems come from seabirds, as well as egrets and pigeons. This is why fishing, both in boats and from the shore, is banned in the vicinity of the airport.

Various deterrents have been developed to get rid of birds, but Vicente Cabrera of the Fauna Control Department at the airport says “Other methods only work for a while. The birds simple get used to noises or infra-red lights that are meant to deter them and start returning.”

One thing that birds never get used to, however, is predators. That’s why every major airport in Spain has a falconry department. That mere sight of a bird of prey flying around the perimeter of the airport regularly is enough to dissuade most birds from frequenting zone.

The Fauna Control service was set up in 2006 and now has 22 birds of prey, including peregrine falcons – the fastest living creatures in the world – buzzards, a Barn Owl, tiny American kestrels, hybrid hawks and a Golden Eagle called Freya, originally from the Czech Republic.

The birds do their rounds every single day of the year at times of day dictated by incoming and outgoing flights, and this continuous presence is enough to make the runway a no-go zone for most other birds. Although these are hunting birds, they are well-fed before their flights. A bird that is actively hunting is harder to control and more likely to go astray than one that has no interest in food.

In fact, the Fauna Control service is more likely to rescue birds than to kill them. A few years ago, they found a gannet in the airport that had swallowed a fishhook. The bird was treated successfully and later released.

All the birds of prey are exercised regularly, with more care being taken with younger ones or new arrivals. It takes between 7 months to a year for one of the airport’s birds of prey to be fully trained in the perimeter flights that are their main duty.