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Turns out birds like hanging out at airports more than any other creature, so developing a strategy to shoo them off runways is an on-going battle.

Despite constant efforts to shoo them away, birds love to hang out at airports and gorge on a smorgasbord of bugs in grassy areas.

The result: on average more than 2,000 birds a year strike airliners and general aviation planes across the nation, with about 100 of those at South Florida’s three major airports.

It happened again on Thursday night, when a bird flew into the engine of an American Airlines Boeing 737 as it was approaching Miami International Airport. The plane, which took off from Chicago with 145 passengers and crew on board, landed safely.

To prevent such incidents, South Florida airports use a variety of measures to scare birds away, mainly pyrotechnic cannons, which make a booming noise. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport also “harasses” the birds using horns and sirens, said airport spokesman Greg Meyer.

“This harassment is not only on the airfield but anywhere where we identify roosting areas,” he said.

Workers at Palm Beach International Airport use loud pistols, spokeswoman Casandra Davis said.

Miami International mounts cannons on top of vehicles “to scatter the birds and keep them from congregating on the airfield,” said airport spokesman Marc Henderson.

The efforts seem to be paying off. Last year, Miami recorded 51 strikes and 40 so far this year; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood recorded 41 bird strikes last year and 27 this year and Palm Beach saw seven strikes last year, six this year.

Usually bird strikes are a nuisance, causing minor damage to planes and inconvenience to passengers. Yet the strikes can be potentially deadly.

in January 2009, a US Airways jetliner ran into flock of Canadian geese after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia, lost power in both engines and was forced to ditch in the Hudson River. In the aftermath, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became a hero for saving all 155 people on board.

In all, bird and other wildlife strikes cost U.S. aviation companies about $650 million in damage each year, federal officials said.

(c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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