By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday said government officials may shoot down migratory birds flying near New York City airports to protect aircraft, rejecting claims by an animal rights group that such killings are excessive. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a federal permit issued to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that allowed bird shootings in emergency situations. The group Friends of Animals challenged a June 2014 permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that empowered the Port Authority to stop any "direct threat to human safety" posed by migratory birds.