Aviation vs Nature: The Battle Against Bird Strikes

April 20, 2023 6 mins to read

Aviation vs Nature: The Battle Against Bird Strikes

Birds and airplanes have shared the skies for over a century, but the potential for a catastrophic collision between the two remains a major concern for the aviation industry. These collisions, known as bird strikes, pose significant safety risks to passengers and crew, can result in costly damage to aircraft, and have ecological consequences. In this article, we will explore the causes and effects of bird strikes, the measures taken by the aviation industry to mitigate them, and the efforts of conservationists to protect bird populations.

Bird Strike Incidents


Bird strikes are more common than many people realize. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 13,000 bird strikes each year. Worldwide, there are tens of thousands of bird strikes annually. While most bird strikes do not result in serious harm, there have been several notable incidents that have highlighted the potential dangers.

Notable Bird strike incidents:

One of the most famous bird strike incidents occurred in 2009, when a US Airways flight piloted by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger collided with a flock of geese shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. The bird strikes caused both engines to fail, leaving the plane without power. Sullenberger was able to land the plane safely in the Hudson River, and all 155 passengers and crew survived. The incident, which became known as the Miracle on the Hudson, underscored the importance of bird strike prevention measures.

Analysis of the causes:

The causes of bird strikes are varied and complex. Birds can collide with planes during takeoff and landing, when they are most likely to be in the vicinity of airports. They can also strike aircraft at higher altitudes, particularly during migration periods when flocks of birds are in flight. Factors such as weather patterns, geography, and the proximity of airports to natural habitats can all play a role in bird strikes.

The Aviation Industry’s Response

Measures taken by the Aviation industry:

The aviation industry has taken a number of measures to reduce the risk of bird strikes. One of the most effective methods is the implementation of airport bird control programs. These programs use a variety of tactics, including habitat modification, bird harassment techniques, and the use of trained falcons and dogs, to discourage birds from nesting and foraging in and around airports.

In addition to these programs, pilots receive training on how to avoid bird strikes and what to do in the event of a collision. Aircraft design modifications, such as the installation of bird strike-resistant windshields and engines, have also been effective in reducing the severity of bird strikes.

Effectiveness of these measures and their limitations:

Despite these efforts, bird strikes continue to pose a significant risk to aviation safety. The effectiveness of airport bird control programs can be limited by factors such as budget constraints and the difficulty of controlling bird populations over a wide area. There is also a need for more research into the behavior of birds and how to predict their movements in order to improve avoidance strategies.

The Environmental Perspective

Ecological Impact of Bird strikes:

While bird strikes pose a danger to humans, they also have ecological consequences. Bird populations can be affected by collisions with aircraft, particularly for species that are already threatened or endangered. In addition, the use of methods such as bird harassment can disrupt natural behaviors and breeding patterns.

Efforts made by Conservationists to Protect Bird populations:

Conservationists have made efforts to protect bird populations by advocating for changes to aviation practices. One such effort is the establishment of wildlife refuges near airports to provide alternative habitats for birds. There have also been calls for airports to be designed with bird-friendly features, such as vegetation and water sources, to reduce the likelihood of bird strikes.

Tensions between Aviation Safety and Environmental protection:

However, there can be tensions between aviation safety and environmental protection. The use of bird control measures such as habitat modification and harassment can be controversial, and there is a need to find a balance between these competing interests.

Future Directions

Current Research on Bird strikes and Potential solutions:

There is ongoing research into ways to improve bird strike prevention. One promising avenue is the use of radar technology to detect birds and predict their movements. This technology, known as avian radar, uses specialized radar equipment to track flocks of birds and provide real-time data on their flight patterns. This can help pilots and air traffic controllers avoid areas of high bird activity and adjust flight paths accordingly.

Another potential solution is the use of bird repelling systems. These systems use a variety of methods, including high-pitched noises and laser beams, to deter birds from flying in the vicinity of airports. While some of these systems have shown promise in small-scale tests, more research is needed to determine their effectiveness in real-world settings.

Recommendations for Future Actions:

In addition, there is a need for better collaboration between the aviation industry and conservationists to find solutions that balance the needs of both groups. This may involve incorporating more bird-friendly features into airport design, establishing more wildlife refuges, and investing in research to better understand bird behavior and migration patterns.


Bird strikes remain a significant concern for the aviation industry, but efforts to mitigate the risk continue to evolve. While airport bird control programs and aircraft design modifications have been effective in reducing the frequency and severity of bird strikes, there is still a need for more research and innovation in this area.

The environmental impact of bird strikes cannot be ignored, and conservationists play an important role in advocating for bird-friendly practices and protections. Finding a balance between aviation safety and environmental protection is a complex challenge, but one that is essential for the long-term sustainability of both human and avian populations.

Interesting Facts:

  • In 2019, a video went viral of a bald eagle colliding with a government drone mid-flight, causing significant damage to the drone. While this incident did not involve an aircraft, it highlights the potential dangers of bird strikes to all types of aerial vehicles.
  • The U.S. Air Force has developed a high-tech bird control system called the Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS), which uses real-time bird data and weather forecasts to help pilots avoid areas of high bird activity.
  • In some cases, bird strikes can actually benefit the environment. For example, the remains of birds struck by aircraft can provide important food sources for scavengers like vultures and eagles.
  • The International Bird Strike Committee (IBSC) is a global organization dedicated to promoting bird strike awareness and research. The group hosts an annual conference where experts from around the world gather to discuss the latest research and strategies for reducing bird strikes.
  • In 2017, a flight departing from Singapore was delayed after a flock of chickens wandered onto the runway. The chickens were eventually chased away by airport staff using brooms and other tools.
  • While bird strikes can be dangerous, they are relatively rare compared to other aviation hazards. According to the FAA, there were more than 9 million commercial flights in the U.S. in 2019, but only 2,384 reported bird strikes.

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