Section 5. Bird Hazards and Flight Over National Refuges, Parks, and Forests
Migratory Bird Activity
- Bird strike risk increases because of bird migration during the months of March through April, and August through November.
- 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.
- 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 routes.
Reducing Bird Strike Risks
- 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.
- 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 bird concentrations.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Reporting Bird Strikes
Pilots are urged to report any bird or other wildlife strike using FAA Form 5200-7, Bird/Other Wildlife Strike Report (). Additional forms are available at any ; at any FAA Regional Office or at https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/. 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.
Reporting Bird and Other Wildlife Activities
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:
- Geographic location.
- Bird type (geese, ducks, gulls, etc.).
- Approximate numbers.
- Direction of bird flight path.
Pilot Advisories on Bird and Other Wildlife Hazards
Many airports advise pilots of other wildlife hazards caused by large animals on the runway through the Chart Supplement U.S. and the 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 , tower, or airport management.
Flights Over Charted U.S. Wildlife Refuges, Parks, and Forest Service Areas
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. Exceptions include:
- When forced to land due to an emergency beyond the control of the operator;
- At officially designated landing sites; or
- An approved official business of the Federal Government.
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.
- 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 Sectional Charts.
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:
- Emergencies involving the safety of human life; or
- Threat of serious property loss.
- 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. Exceptions include: