Birds near Dallas Love Field a growing concern

Over the past two years, nearly 200 birds have struck planes at Dallas Love Field. It's a problem that not only puts travelers in danger, but costs tens of millions of dollars in damage.

Part of the problem for Love Field has to do with a neighboring lake.

Love Field and Bachman Lake have always been next door neighbors. But there's growing concern that flocks of birds attracted to the lake by people who feed them are a more serious problem than most people recognize.           

Airports, airplanes landing and taking off amid flocks of birds make a bad mix. Bachman Lake nestled hard against the runways at Dallas Love Field is a prime example.

Terry Mitchell, Assistant Director of Aviation at Love, says a recent study by Boeing puts the cost of damage to planes nationwide from bird strikes at 650 million dollars a year.

"From January of 2014 to date, we've had approximately 200 bird strikes,” he explained.

In January 2009, U.S. airways flight 1549 struck a flock of geese during takeoff from New York's LaGuardia airport and forced pilots to land in the Hudson River.

The incident spurred airports across the country to assess the danger, especially in the fall and spring when ducks and geese are migrating.

"The migratory birds as they fly over, they look down and they see it looks to be a pretty attractive feeding place,” Mitchell said.

Love Field asked for and the city to put up signs that ask people not to feed the birds for Aviation safety. But the signs often go ignored.

"It's extremely frustrating,” said Urban Biologist Brett Johnson. “People have ignored them for a long time, but it really does cause a lot of problems for us.”

Johnson says it’s not just bad for air traffic - it's bad for the birds. 

"You get huge populations of ducks all the time hungry,” said Sam Kieschnick with Texas Park & Wildlife. “And people come and feed them, and that's not a good thing for the animals."

Airport officials have tried netting and moving the ducks to other lakes. They are now considering tougher measures like chemical repellents or sound repellents.

"Anything we do has to be very closely coordinated with air traffic control,” said Mitchell. “The last thing we want to do is scare up a bunch of birds in front of an aircraft that's on approach."

Dallas Parks Department says feeding wildlife causes other problems at other parks. At White Rock Lake, a popular feeding spot is causing serious erosion.

There is currently no punishment of any kind for feeding animals by the ‘Don’t feed’ signs. There has also been talk of a city ordinance against feeding wildlife, which would likely find tough sledding at city council.