Turtles Invade JFK Runway, Delay Flights

About 150 turtles crawled onto the tarmac at Kennedy Airport Wednesday morning in search of beaches on which to lay their eggs causing dozens of flights to be delayed.

The diamondback terrapin turtles began their slow-moving march across the tarmac around 6:45 a.m. and quickly became so numerous that controllers were forced to move departing flights to another runway, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Biologist Roger Wood said it's nesting season for the turtles, and the slight elevation of the airport offered protection for their eggs.

"What would make it attractive was it was next to a salt marsh," Wood said, "and the surface that the runway's on are all above high tide, so it was slightly elevated above the marshes where the terrapins live, and they have to dig their nest in areas that won't get flooded."

Kennedy Airport is next to Jamaica Bay, which is home to many terrapin turtles.

The FAA said flight delays averaged about 30 minutes.

With the Associated Press