Ducks on the "Wing"

by Gene McManus

After 40 years, my memory may be playing tricks on me, and I can't be sure that the following actually happened, although I'm sure it did. If anyone from the 786th, or other gap-filler sites can confirm this, I'd appreciate it.


The 786th had a gap-filler radar site just outside Wing, ND (some folks called it the Regan site, but "Ducks on the Regan" doesn't make a lot of sense --- [grin]), not far from Bismark. This was an AN/FPS-18 system, klystron powered, as opposed to the AN/FPS-14 at Niobe, which was magnetron powered. I mention the fact that the Wing system used a klystron, because that fact may be the key to what was happening here.

I was only at the Wing site a few times, but on at least one occasion, and perhaps a couple, we found the ground around the radar building, inside the perimiter fence littered with literally hundreds of dead ducks. It was a messy, stinking cleanup, and a bit of a mystery how they got there.

I either spent the night at the station once, or somebody who had told me that they could hear a banging in the night, and when they (or I) went outside to investigate, found ducks flying into the exposed radar antenna and killing themselves.

The site at Wing, like the one at Niobe was smack in the center of a major duck migration route. Unlike the Wing site, we never saw this phenomenon at Niobe. This is the reason I believe that the klystron transmitter, which would emit a very "clean" R-F signal, compared with the relatively "noisy" magnetron signal, was the cause of the duck massacre. It appeared that something was attracting the ducks to the radar antenna, to the degree that they'd fly headlong into it with no attempt to evade. My guess was always that the transmitter screwed with their navigation abilities, and did them in.

I suspect that the coyotes hated to see the Wing/Regan gap-filler site close up

... an interesting mystery on the "Wing".