REUTERS/Christian Charisius


Nearly 150 turtles crawled up onto the tarmac at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport today in search of a beach to lay their eggs.  The odd event caused dozens of flight delays, aviation authorities in New York said.

The news broke around 9:30 a.m. as low-cost air carrier JetBlue apologized to customers via Twitter.

JFK is experiencing delays as the airport clears turtles off the runway, tweeted the airline, later joking that the turtles were of the ninja variety but that they hope for faster animals next time.

The migration of diamondback terrapin turtles happens every year at JFK, which is built on the edge of Jamaica Bay and a federally protected park. In late June or early July the animals heave themselves out of the bay and head toward a beach to lay their eggs.

The peak of the turtle trouble usually lasts a few days

The slow-motion parade began today around 6:45 a.m., and within 3 hours there were so many turtles on Runway 4L and the nearby taxiways that controllers were forced to move departing flights to an alternative runway.

We ceded to Mother Nature, said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the airport.

Workers from the Port Authority and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were scooping up turtles and moving them across the airport, he said. Flight delays averaged about 30 minutes.

The main concern is for the turtles themselves, Marsico said. He added that crews were loading the turtles into pickup trucks and giving them rides to the nesting beaches.

We are trying to help wildlife out a bit here, Marsico said. We built on the area where they were nesting for generations, so we feel incumbent to help them along the way.

You can now follow the JFK turtles on Twitter @JFKTurtles.