Press Briefing: Bird Research at Gadeok Do, Busan

On May 9th, a press briefing was held at the national office of the Korean Federation of Environmental Movements (KFEM) in Seoul. The briefing introduced research being conducted under the umbrella of KFEM on the biodiversity and culture of Gadeok Do – the proposed site of the new international airport in Busan. As part of this KFEM-led initiative, Birds Korea has been responsible for leading the research on migratory birds.

Some of the journalists at the May 9th Press Briefing on Gadeok Do organised by KFEM, and held within their national office in Seoul.

Birds Korea’s statement, released yesterday as part of a fuller document (also detailing research on the globally Endangered Narrow Ridged Finless Porpoise and nationally threatened seagrasses) is reproduced below in full:

Prepared by Dr Nial Moores, Director of 새와생명의터/ Birds Korea, for Press Briefing on May 9th

  • Preliminary research on migrating birds and potential birdstrike issues was conducted in Daehang-Dong, Gadeok Do on seven dates between September 12th 2021 and March 25th 2022 (1, 2).
  • All birds flying over or near the Proposed Runway area were counted, for a total of 42 hours and 35 minutes (3). On each date, for each bird, the approximate direction of flight and altitude was recorded. This is because research in the USA suggests that more than three-quarters of birdstrike incidents take place between ground level and 300 m above ground level (with most between ground level and 150 m above ground level) (4).
  • In total, during our surveys we recorded more than 6,400 birds flying over or suspected of flying over the Proposed Runway at altitudes of between 50 m and 900 m above ground level. This total included 2,610 individual raptors of 13 or 14 species and 1,922 “other” large birds (e.g., gulls, crows and herons, some of which appeared to commute locally and were recorded flying over the Proposed Runway multiple times) (5).
  • Raptors included species which are either listed as National Natural Monuments or are considered to be threatened in the Republic of Korea (6).
  • Almost half (43%) of the birds we observed were estimated to be flying between ground level and 300 m above ground level when they flew over the Proposed Runway, including raptors, gulls, herons and flocks of several smaller species, some of which have also been involved in birdstrike incidents in e.g., China (7), Europe (8) and the USA (9).
  • The direction of flight and composition of species was different between dates, with most birds moving south or southeast in autumn, and most birds moving north or northeast in March, indicative of seasonal migration.  During migration, birds are known to be concentrated by geography, including near to shortest sea-crossings (10).  The stretch of coast between Geoje-Gadeok and the Nakdong Estuary is adjacent to the shortest sea-crossing between Korea and Japan. Our research indicates strongly that Gadeok Do is on the main migration corridor for migratory bird species migrating between the Korean Peninsula and southwestern Japan (11)
  • Published literature on species known to migrate between Korea and Japan combined with a coarse extrapolation of our data suggests that possibly hundreds of thousands of migratory birds pass through Gadeok Do each year (12).
  • Our research was very limited in time and effort. A much more robust survey effort is essential, appropriate for the construction of a new international airport, in order to reduce the risk of birdstrike and to reduce negative impacts on migratory bird species. Research needs to be conducted by multiple count teams and (if possible) radar throughout a full one-year cycle in order to develop an appropriate baseline understanding of bird migration through Gadeok Do.
  • In addition, it is important to note here that in the USA the Federal Aviation Authority recommends that – in order to reduce the risk of birdstrike and of harm to biodiversity –there should be a minimum distance of 8 km between the outer edge of an airport’s operating area and areas that attract wildlife (13)
Figure. 1 Circle indicates 8 km distance from the centre of proposed Gadeok Do Airport operations. Large parts of the Nakdong Estuary are within this circle


The Proposed Gadeok Do International Airport would be within 8 km of core habitat of the Nakdong Estuary, a National Natural Monument for Migratory Waterbirds which has long been recognised as a Ramsar-defined internationally important wetland, supporting tens of thousands of waterbirds each year. Most numerous waterbirds in the Nakdong Estuary include Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose and Great Cormorant – all large-bodied waterbirds which migrate in flocks, and can therefore be considered high risk species for aircraft on approach or departure from the airport (14).


1. Research was supported by a small grant from KFEM in Daehang-Dong by Dr Nial Moores (Birds Korea) and Mr Won Jongtae (Tongyeong-Geoje KFEM), joined on several dates by Mr Lee Seong-Gun (Busan Green Foundation). Counts were made using a tripod-mounted high-quality telescope and binoculars from a fixed count point.

Counting birds, Daehang Dong, Busan

2.  Birdstrike: “During the past century, wildlife-aircraft strikes have resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives worldwide, as well as billions of dollars in aircraft damage.” (US Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Authority. 2007. Advisory Circular, HAZARDOUS WILDLIFE ATTRACTANTS ON OR NEAR AIRPORTS).

3. Dates and times of survey.  In 2021, (1) September 12th (05:55- 14;00); (2) September 18th (06:25-11:00); (3) September 24th (06:15-13:35); (4) October 3rd (06:35-13:00); (5) October 13th (06:25-12:00); (6) November 4th (07:40-12:30); and in 2022 (7) March 25th (07:15-13;00).

4. See e.g., Dolbeer, Richard A., “Height Distribution of Birds Recorded by Collisions with Civil Aircraft” (2006). USDA National Wildlife Research Center – Staff Publications. 500.

5. Excel of counts can be provided on request.

6. Raptors recorded during the research included: 물수리 Pandion haliaetus, 벌매 Pernis ptilorhynchus, 초원수리 Aquila nipalensis (identification not confirmed), 붉은배새매 Accipiter soloensis, 조롱이 Accipiter gularis, 새매 Accipiter nisus, 참매 Accipiter gentilis, 솔개 Milvus migrans, 왕새매 Butastur indicus, 말똥가리 Buteo japonicus, 황조롱이 Falco tinnunculus, 비둘기조롱이 Falco amurensis, 새호리기 Falco subbuteo and 매 Falco peregrinus

7. Hu et al., (2020) A birdstrike risk assessment model and its application at Ordos Airport, reports.

8. European General Aviation Safety Team (2012). Bird strike, a European risk with local specificities.  Germany-EGAST_GA6-bird-strikes-final.pdf

9. Dolbeer, Richard A., “Height Distribution of Birds Recorded by Collisions with Civil Aircraft” (2006). USDA National Wildlife Research Center – Staff Publications. 500.

10. For example, Bruderer, B. 1997. The Study of Bird Migration by Radar. Part 2:  Major Achievements.  

 Naturwissenschaften 84, 45–54;  Bruderer, B. F. Liechti. 1999. Bird migration across the

 Mediterranean. In: Adams, N. & R. Slotow (eds), Proc. Int. Ornithol. Congr., Durban: 1983-1999, Johannesburg: BirdLife South Africa; Erni, B., Liechti, F. & B. Bruderer. 2005. The role of wind in passerine autumn migration between Europe and Africa. Behavioral Ecology 16:732–740 (doi:10.1093/beheco/ari046;  Finlayson, J.1998. The Role of the Iberian Peninsula in the Palaearctic-African migration system: ecological, evolutionary, geographical and historical considerations at varying spatial and temporal scales.  In Costa, L.T., Costa, H., Araújo, M. & Silva, M.A. (eds.) Simpósio sobre Aves Migradoras na Península Ibérica. SPEA e Universidade de Évora, Evora. 2-32; Riddiford, N.1985. Grounded migrants versus radar: a case-study. Bird Study, 32: 2, 116-121.

11. Large-scale migration of several species between Korea and Japan is well-documented, see e.g., Japan pages of Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network ( and Higuchi (2012), Journal of Ornithology 153, 3-14.

Figure 2. Southeast Korea, and at bottom right the Japanese Island of Teima Do / Tsushima. The red spot marks the proposed location of the new international airport. Image from Google maps.


Figure 3. Main migration corridors from and to the Korean Peninsula. Base image is from Google Earth.

12. Our research on seven dates recorded a mean of more than 2 birds per minute crossing the proposed runway. Main migration periods extend from early March to the end of May; and from late August to the end of November, i.e., for more than 180 dates of the year.

13. US Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Authority. 2007. Advisory Circular, HAZARDOUS WILDLIFE ATTRACTANTS ON OR NEAR AIRPORTS.

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