Your Wild Birds Guide

Bird Strikes

I re-wrote this page when I discovered that the term “bird strikes” is specific to “birdlife colliding with aircraft”, not windows of buildings.

This is where you will find information on why and what to do about birds hitting windows in residential areas and about the crisis in cities is covered too.

The Definition of “Bird Strike”:
from International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Wildlife and FOD Workshop/Risk Reduction Program

“A bird strike is strictly defined as a collision between a bird and an aircraft which is in flight or on a take off or landing roll.

The term is often expanded to cover other wildlife strikes - with bats or ground animals.

Bird Strike is common and can be a significant threat to aircraft safety.”

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There are Three Major Wildlife Strike Databases:

1.  Transport Canada bird/mammal strike database
2. United States FAA database
3. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) database

What Causes Bird Collisions with Aircraft?

There are many factors involved that cause birds to collide with aircraft.

These are not problems that the average citizen can be responsible for or participate in the solution.

Except perhaps, to lobby aircraft manufacturers to implement all the information that is available to them in manufacturing certain parts of planes that can be altered in a way that reduces the effect of bird strike damage on aircraft.

List of Circumstances and Elements that can Result in Bird Strikes:

  • Time of day.
  • Type of aircraft and engines involved, some are more vulnerable to damage than others.
  • Phase of flight that the airplane is in, take-off, landing or in flight.
  • Part of the aircraft that is struck.
  • Weather conditions.
  • Time of year, migration times statistically have higher rates of strikes.
  • Location of airport. Most strikes occur within 500 feet from ground level with the majority under 200. Take off and landing are the most vulnerable times.
  • Size of bird determines a great deal as would be expected. One large bird has the potential to cause serious damage to the aircraft, if the aircraft is struck in a critical location.
  • Sheer number of birds is significant as well even if they are small. A large flock of Starlings can halt the take-off of a flight because of the vast numbers these birds gather in to migrate. A mass of birds can cause damage to more than one part of the plane.

  • Location of airport. Is it in a bird migration flyway? Are nesting flocks in the area. Young birds have not had the experience yet to be aware of aircraft.
  • Some airports have more effective wildlife management programs.
  • Some types of aircraft are more vulnerable because of how they are used. If an aircraft is used daily for short haul flights, from the same airport, where numbers of birdlife is high, then the chances for involvement with birds is significantly increased compared to other aircraft which are used for world intercontinental travel.
  • Studies have indicated that where an airport is located around the world will also effect collision rate. These studies revealed that Canada, United States and some European and Pacific Rim countries  have the lowest occurrences of bird and aircraft colliding. Countries with airports at the most risk are those which require better wildlife management programs that reduce bird/mammal collisions are in Africa and some South American, Asian and European countries.

The following chart relates the information collected by the US and Canada regarding the species that struck aircraft in a nine year period from 1991 to 1999.

Bird Group


Total #
of Strikes

% of


Total #
of Strikes

% of


Waterfowl (eg. ducks)    273            6.5            1366             11.7     

Waterbirds (eg. herons) 37             0.9             51                 0.4      

Raptors                            341            8.1             1320             11.4      

Owls                                  102            2.4            250              2.1       

Shorebirds                       307            7.3            834             7.2      

Gulls & Terns                   1614            38.5         3266           28.1      

Pigeons & Doves            125              3.0           1373            11.8      

Gallinaceous Birds         27               0.6            62              0.5      

Other Non-Passerines                                       54               0.5       

Passerines (perching birds)                                                                           

Crows                               65              1.6              208            1.8      Swallows                          291             6.9             297            2.6      

Blackbirds                       20              0.5              671             5.8      

Starlings                         160             3.8               591             5.1       

Snow Bunting               300             7.2               33               0.3      

Other Passerines         528             12.6              1253           10.8

Identified Bird Totals 4190            100              11,629         100.0

Unidentifird Birds Struck 2658                        14,084                 

Total Birds Struck     6848                               25,713

Table 7.5 Identified Bird Groups Commonly Struck in Canada and U.S. (1991-1999)

Information for this article was collected from:

Transport Canada bird/mammal strike database

United States FAA Strike Report

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Skybrary/bird strike

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