60,000 birds struck by aircraft since 2000

Almost 60,000 birds have been struck by commercial and private aircraft in North America a new FAA report revealed this week. The most common strike involved Mourning Doves: Pilots reported hitting 2,291 of the dove species between 2000 and 2008.

In eight years the other avian strikes included gulls (2,186), European starlings (1,427) and American kestrels (1,422).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) report also noted that New York’s Kennedy (JFK) airport and Sacramento International (SAC) reported the most incidents with serious damage. JFK reported 1,804 incidents with 84 that involved substantial damage or destroyed components; SAC had 1,438 and 56 major damage. San Francisco (SF0) airport: 1,014 and 45; Los Angeles (LAX): 940 bird strikes, 36.

Since 1990, there was a total of 112,387 reports of aircraft striking wildlife, including reptiles and mammals, at 2,008 airports in the United States and Canada. Pilots and airlines volunteerily report bird strikes to the FAA.

See the National Wildlife Strike Database on-line database

Bird strikes happen most often during take-off or landing, or during a low altitude flights. A serious danger to both birds and jet engines is when a flock of birds ingested into the engine.

The most recent famous bird flock vs. jet occurred in January 2009 when an Airbus A320 struck a flock of Canada Geese while climbing out from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. The strike caused a nearly complete loss of power in both engines. Because of quick action from the US Airways flight 1549 flight crew, the plane made a successful emergency landing in the Hudson River. The 155 passengers and crew were mostly unhurt. The birds weren’t so lucky.

Many wildlife experts say the population of some birds, particularly large ones like Canada geese (photo above), have been growing as more and more birds find food to live near cities and airports year round rather than migrating. Airports also provide a wide variety of natural and human-made habitats that offer abundant food, water and cover. Many airports are located along migratory routes used by birds.

News reports:

CNN: Newly opened database shows airplane bird strikes not rare

San Francisco Chronicle: Birds damaged planes at SFO 45 times since 1990

Los Angeles Times: Airplane ‘bird strikes’ have climbed dramatically, FAA records show