Nearly 1,800 goose eggs destroyed to stop plane strikes

Belfast City Airport has said it has a legal obligation to control the number of greylag geese for safety reasons. (File Photo) Top News

Almost 1,800 greylag goose eggs have been destroyed at a park in east Belfast since 2002 to prevent birds from being sucked into the engines of aircraft, authorities in Northern Ireland have said. Victoria Park is close to the George Best Belfast City Airport and planes fly directly overhead. News in Northern Ireland obtained the data through a freedom of information request to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Belfast City Airport has said it has a legal obligation to control the number of greylag geese for safety reasons. The eggs are destroyed through a process known as egg-pricking, the reported. During this process the shell is pricked and injected with oil. This prevents the embryo from developing into a chick and hatching, it said. The parent geese continue to sit on the eggs and therefore will not lay any more. The airport said the method was the most humane way to manage the population of geese, adding that no adult geese had been culled. If a bird flies into a plane engine, it can damage the mechanics and a few planes have been brought down as a result of such bird strikes, the report said.

In a freedom of information request the Northern Ireland environment agency revealed that since 2002, a total of 1,775 greylag goose eggs had been oiled and pricked. The numbers involved vary each year, ranging from fewer than 50 to more than 250. In recent years, an average of 100 eggs have been pricked. A spokesman for the airport said: “In order to control the feral geese population in Victoria Park, the oiling and pricking of eggs is undertaken by a biologist under licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and with the permission of Belfast City Council.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Public health and safety is paramount to Belfast City Council. “Due to concerns over the number of greylag geese in Victoria Park, and their potential threat to landing or taking off aircraft at George Best Belfast City Airport, Belfast City Council has an agreement with the airport granting them access to Victoria Park to carryout egg pricking,” the spokesperson said.

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