Paton Bird Risk Assessment Model

Airport Wildlife Risk Modelling


7 Steps to Airport Wildlife Risk Management

This is part 4 of a 7 part series exploring the use of the ISO31000 risk management framework in Airport Wildlife Risk Management; part 1 was “Frameworks and Consultation”, part 2 was “Setting the Airport Wildlife Hazard Scene” and part 3 was “Lining Up the Usual (Wildlife) Suspects

So, now you are now equipped with a list of species you may want or need to control. To get that flow I mentioned my last article, you will need to set up a framework for analysis first. The goal of this framework is to, in the words of ISO31000, “comprehend the nature of risk and to determine the level of risk.”

In Need of a Model

Luckily, there already exists a number of approaches to this very problem. The one I’m most familiar with is the Paton Bird Risk Assessment Model developed by the University of Adelaide and Adelaide Airport.

Overall, the Paton model is based on a consequence-probability matrix but beneath that it uses relatively easy-to-quantify factors that go into the mix to produce a final score.

The consequence side of the equation is made up of 3 factors which are multiplied together to produce a consequence score. This score is equated to 1 of 6 consequence categories.

The 3 factors are:

  • Body Mass - Broken up into 6 categories ranging from less than 20 grams to greater than 5 kilograms, these categories are given a score ranging from 1 through to 32.
  • Flocking Behaviour - 3 levels of flocking behaviour with scores assigned from 1 to 4.
  • Flight Behaviour - 2 types, rapid direct and not, scored 1 and 2 respectively.

Likelihood is a little more complex multiple criteria used simultaneously to assign 1 of 4 categories and other factors used to modify this score. Generally, however, it is abundance and strike history which contribute to this score.

The Paton model provides quantitative and qualitative descriptors for this part of the process. A number of sub-criteria elaborate further and do help you get to an answer.

With the consequence and likelihood categories in hand, the overall risk matrix gives you a final risk category - one of six from negligible to extreme. And that is your final answer - lock it in.


The Paton model has a number of limitations. The first one Paton mentions in the paper - time. Timeframes aren’t considered as part of the above process.

Also, ground-based animals aren’t considered. I don’t think this is such a big problem as body mass is just as relevant and one only needs to change flight and flock to movement and herd and it works pretty well.

It is, of course, a model and this means that it won’t apply in all circumstances. As long as you go in to the process eyes open and give the results an arms length gross error check, the results should work and users can have some confidence in the process.

Other Models

There are other approaches and I’m not making a judgement call which is better. The Paton model just happens to be the one I have used the most. There are links to other models in the resources section below.

In part 5 we are going to take the time to set some criteria to which we will compare this analysis. It is a step often overlooked. But before we get there, wouldn’t you like to make a comment on your preferred model or technique in the area below?

Additional Resources More information on wildlife hazard management and bird strikes can be found on the web at:

Lining Up the Usual (Wildlife) Suspects


7 Steps to Airport Wildlife Risk Management

This is part 3 of a 7 part series exploring the use of the ISO 31000 risk management framework in Airport Wildlife Risk Management. In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we established communication with stakeholders and defined our operational context. The next step, risk identification, is quite pivotal with the rest of the process flowing naturally from this point.

For airport wildlife hazard management, this list of risks is going to be a list of the species found at and around the airport.

Some practitioners take a fairly broad approach to airport risk management and like to write down a range of risk sources at this point. They might include habitats and activities in this list as well. But I like to keep it tight. Specifically, what birds and animals have I got to worry about? This will make more sense when we go to analyse the “risks”.

Get out There and Get into Nature

You cannot do this in a conference room, an office or even just on the airport. No, it's time to get out and about to see what species actually exist in the vicinity of your airport.

The person to do this should, ideally, be an ornithologist or a biologist. If you are stuck, an amateur bird watcher might suffice.

Using the context statement, this person heads out and has a good look around. Depending on the surrounding environment, this job might be rather involved with a lot of travel between differing habitats and activities. The goal should be to look into each distinct environment to see what’s there.

This is not a One Off

Obviously, due to seasonal and other variations, this is not a one-off or an annual job. To have a truly complete list, you will need to carry out the above exercise a couple of times a year. But this may not be enough.

Stir in a Data Review

To round out the list, it is also a good idea to go over what data you have from airport operations. As part of the establishing context, we did look into the historical context with strike and count history. This data may help identify species missed during the physical inspection.

How Specific a Species?

This one is a good question and recently I asked my airport’s wildlife consultant on it. She had identified the Black Kite and Black-Shouldered Kite separately. In my ignorance I asked what the difference was, thinking that there couldn't really be much of a difference.

She explained the real differences but extended it to explain that the two species would be rated differently using the risk model we will be using in the next phase of the risk management process.

We will explore this in part 4 with a look at the Paton Bird Risk Assessment Model. In the meantime, why not share your experience in the comments area below?

Additional Resources More information on wildlife hazard management and bird strikes can be found at: