Acoustic Technology May Help Solve ‘Towers vs. Birds’ Problem

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The ongoing battle of towers vs. birds may have some technical solutions in the works.  Each year, approximately seven million birds collide with communication towers, according to the American Bird Conservatory (ABC). Researcher John Swaddle, a behavioral biologist at William and Mary, and graduate student Nicole Ingrassia, recently unveiled Sonic Nets and Acoustic Lighthouse, two initiatives which use acoustic deterrence to guide birds away from danger, according to a report from Terra Daily. “The fundamental knowledge of how birds behave and respond to sound helps us derive these new technologies and solutions,” Swaddle said.

Sonic Nets technology is designed to disrupt large gatherings of birds by preventing them from communicating with each other. According to a report from Terra Daily, Sonic Nets, which has already been deployed across three continents in partnership with Midstream Technology, broadcasts “pink noise,” blocking out alarm calls and alerts about predators. Swaddle explained, “If birds can’t talk to each other, their perception of the threat of the area – the predation risk – goes way up.” Unable to communicate, the birds feel unsafe, causing them to leave the area. 

Acoustic Lighthouse was developed around basic bird anatomy – birds in flight align their bodies aerodynamically, on a horizontal plane, and are looking down rather than straight ahead. Birds who collide with towers simply are not watching where they are flying, usually suffering sudden fatal brain damage on impact, according to Terra Daily. Acoustic Lighthouse uses a directional speaker mounted on the tower to alert birds there is an object ahead. “It’s a bit like someone texting while they’re driving,” Swaddle said. “If you honk your horn at them, they’ll look up.”

February 21, 2018

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