A number of turtles were picked up by the Port...

A number of turtles were picked up by the Port Authority and dropped off on the other side of the runway at JFK Airport. (June 29, 2011) Credit: Port Authority

Turtles and jetliners competed for travel space at Kennedy Airport Wednesday morning -- as they are wont to do at this time of year -- and the turtles won, as they do every year.

The diamondback terrapins often stray onto runways while making their annual migration from marshy Jamaica Bay, which surrounds the airport, to sandy areas to lay their eggs.

Workers from the Port Authority, which operates the airport, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were ready for the migration and gave the turtles a helping hand while air traffic comptrollers of the Federal Aviation Administration rerouted planes.

The Port Authority put the average flight delay at 15 minutes; the FAA said "no more than half an hour."

"Maybe this was bigger numbers than any other given day," said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority, which operates the airport.

"About 150 diamondback terrapins came out of out Jamaica Bay starting about 6:45 a.m. They do not move quickly," Marsico said.

"Our staff, and the USDA went out on the runways, taxiways and other locations -- gloves on hands because they do snap -- picked up said turtles, put turtles in pickup truck and speeded turtles to their final destination: a sandy beach across the runways and taxiways where they lay their eggs," he said.

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