Section 4. Bird Hazards and Flight Over National
Refuges, Parks, and Forests
7-4-1. Migratory Bird Activity
a. Bird strike risk increases because of bird
migration during the months of March through April,
and August through November.
b. The altitudes of migrating birds vary with winds
aloft, weather fronts, terrain elevations, cloud
conditions, and other environmental variables. While
over 90 percent of the reported bird strikes occur at or
below 3,000 feet AGL, strikes at higher altitudes are
common during migration. Ducks and geese are
frequently observed up to 7,000 feet AGL and pilots
are cautioned to minimize en route flying at lower
altitudes during migration.
c. Considered the greatest potential hazard to
aircraft because of their size, abundance, or habit of
flying in dense flocks are gulls, waterfowl, vultures,
hawks, owls, egrets, blackbirds, and starlings.
Four major migratory flyways exist in the U.S. The
Atlantic flyway parallels the Atlantic Coast. The
Mississippi Flyway stretches from Canada through
the Great Lakes and follows the Mississippi River.
The Central Flyway represents a broad area east of the
Rockies, stretching from Canada through Central
America. The Pacific Flyway follows the west coast
and overflies major parts of Washington, Oregon, and
California. There are also numerous smaller flyways
which cross these major north‐south migratory
7-4-2. Reducing Bird Strike Risks
a. The most serious strikes are those involving
ingestion into an engine (turboprops and turbine jet
engines) or windshield strikes. These strikes can
result in emergency situations requiring prompt
action by the pilot.
b. Engine ingestions may result in sudden loss of
power or engine failure. Review engine out
procedures, especially when operating from airports
with known bird hazards or when operating near high
c. Windshield strikes have resulted in pilots
experiencing confusion, disorientation, loss of
communications, and aircraft control problems.
Pilots are encouraged to review their emergency
procedures before flying in these areas.
d. When encountering birds en route, climb to
avoid collision, because birds in flocks generally
distribute themselves downward, with lead birds
being at the highest altitude.
e. Avoid overflight of known areas of bird
concentration and flying at low altitudes during bird
migration. Charted wildlife refuges and other natural
areas contain unusually high local concentration of
birds which may create a hazard to aircraft.
7-4-3. Reporting Bird Strikes
Pilots are urged to report any bird or other wildlife
strike using FAA Form 5200-7, Bird/Other Wildlife
Strike Report (Appendix 1). Additional forms are available at any FSS; at any FAA
Regional Office or at http://wildlife-mitigation.tc.faa.gov. The data derived from these reports
are used to develop standards to cope with this
potential hazard to aircraft and for documentation of
necessary habitat control on airports.
7-4-4. Reporting Bird and Other Wildlife
If you observe birds or other animals on or near the
runway, request airport management to disperse the
wildlife before taking off. Also contact the nearest
FAA ARTCC, FSS, or tower (including non-Federal
towers) regarding large flocks of birds and report the:
a. Geographic location.
b. Bird type (geese, ducks, gulls, etc.).
c. Approximate numbers.
e. Direction of bird flight path.
7-4-5. Pilot Advisories on Bird and Other
Many airports advise pilots of other wildlife hazards
caused by large animals on the runway through the
A/FD and the NOTAM system. Collisions of landing
and departing aircraft and animals on the runway are
increasing and are not limited to rural airports. These
accidents have also occurred at several major
airports. Pilots should exercise extreme caution when
warned of the presence of wildlife on and in the
vicinity of airports. If you observe deer or other large
animals in close proximity to movement areas, advise
the FSS, tower, or airport management.
7-4-6. Flights Over Charted U.S. Wildlife
Refuges, Parks, and Forest Service Areas
a. The landing of aircraft is prohibited on lands or
waters administered by the National Park Service,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or U.S. Forest Service
without authorization from the respective agency.
1. When forced to land due to an emergency
beyond the control of the operator;
2. At officially designated landing sites; or
3. An approved official business of the Federal
b. Pilots are requested to maintain a minimum
altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of the
following: National Parks, Monuments, Seashores,
Lakeshores, Recreation Areas and Scenic Riverways
administered by the National Park Service, National
Wildlife Refuges, Big Game Refuges, Game Ranges
and Wildlife Ranges administered by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, and Wilderness and Primitive
areas administered by the U.S. Forest Service.
FAA Advisory Circular AC 91-36, Visual Flight
Rules (VFR) Flight Near Noise-Sensitive Areas, defines
the surface of a national park area (including parks,
forests, primitive areas, wilderness areas, recreational
areas, national seashores, national monuments, national
lakeshores, and national wildlife refuge and range areas)
as: the highest terrain within 2,000 feet laterally of the
route of flight, or the upper‐most rim of a canyon or valley.
c. Federal statutes prohibit certain types of flight
activity and/or provide altitude restrictions over
designated U.S. Wildlife Refuges, Parks, and Forest
Service Areas. These designated areas, for example:
Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Areas,
Minnesota; Haleakala National Park, Hawaii;
Yosemite National Park, California; and Grand
Canyon National Park, Arizona, are charted on
d. Federal regulations also prohibit airdrops by
parachute or other means of persons, cargo, or objects
from aircraft on lands administered by the three
agencies without authorization from the respective
agency. Exceptions include:
1. Emergencies involving the safety of human
2. Threat of serious property loss.