Date of Award

Summer 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Science

First Advisor

Esteban Fernandez-Juricic

Committee Chair

Esteban Fernandez-Juricic

Committee Member 1

Jeffrey Lucas

Committee Member 2

Kerry Rabenold


Airports are areas with a high availability of resources for wildlife to forage, breed, and roost. Airports also have different types of radars to assist with air traffic control as well as tracking of wildlife that could become a risk for aircraft. The effect of radar electromagnetic radiation on wildlife behavior is not well understood. The goal of this study was to determine if bird behavior is affected by radar in two contexts: static radar (e.g., surveillance radar) and approaching radar (e.g., aircraft weather radar). We used brown-headed cowbirds as a model species. In the static radar context, we performed two separate studies. In the first study, we found some indication of changes in vigilance and movement behaviors during and after exposure to static radar. In the second study, we also found that static radar increased movement behaviors. In the approaching radar context, we found that birds exposed to an approaching vehicle with radar showed earlier escape responses and flights that dodged sideways more than without radar. Taking these findings together, we suggest that birds may move to avoid static radar units, and moving radar units (as in aircraft) could enhance escape responses so that birds would be more likely to escape from vehicles like aircraft at low speeds during taxi, but likely not at the higher speeds during take-off, landing, and flight.