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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Q: How often do wildlife strikes occur?

A: There have been about 179,000 wildlife strikes with civil aircraft in USA between 1990 and 2016 (about 13,000 strikes at 662 airports in 2016).

Q: In what part of the year do most bird strikes occur?

A: About 52% of bird strikes occur from July to October which is when young birds fledge from nests and fall migration occurs.

Q: At what time of the day do most bird strikes occur?

A: About 62% of bird strikes with civil aircraft occur in day, 9% occur at dawn or dusk, and 29% occur at night.

Q: Do most bird strikes occur while in flight, at takeoff, or landing?

A: About 60% of bird strikes with civil aircraft occur during landing phases of flight (descent, approach and landing roll); 37% occur during take-off run and climb; and the remainder occur during the en-route phase.

Q: At what altitude do most bird strikes occur?

A: About 92% of the bird strikes with commercial civil aircraft in USA occur at or below 3,500 feet AGL (above ground level). From 1990-2013, there were 21 strikes with commercial aircraft at heights from 20,000-31,300 feet AGL.

Q: How many deaths have been attributed to wildlife strikes?

A: From 1990 to 2016, there were 262 human fatalities attributed to wildlife strikes around the world.

Q: How many people have been injured due to wildlife strikes?

A: From 1990 to 2013, there were 279 human injuries attributed to wildlife strikes with US civil aircraft.

Q: What bird strike incident resulted in the largest loss of life?

A: On October 4, 1960, Eastern Air Lines Flight 375 struck a flock of European starlings during take off. All four engines were damaged and the aircraft crashed in the Boston harbor. There were 62 fatalities. This incident occurred prior to the creation of the FAA Wildlife Strike Database.

Q: How many aircraft have been destroyed due to wildlife strikes?

A: From 1990 to 2016, there were 247 civil aircraft either destroyed or damaged beyond repair due to wildlife strikes globally.

Q: What part of the airplane is most frequently damaged?

A: For civil aircraft in USA, engines are the component most frequently damaged by bird strikes; engines accounted for 32% of all damaged aircraft components from 1990 to 2012.

Q: What is the economic loss from wildlife strikes?

A: The reported costs for civil aircraft in USA totaled $639 million for the 23-year period, 1990 to 2012. When costs are adjusted for inflation, reported strikes in which costs were not provided, and the estimated number of strikes that were not reported, losses could be as high as $957 million per year.

Q: Who reports wildlife strikes?

A: Most bird strikes are reported by pilots and airport personnel. For additional information please visit the FAA Wildlife Strike Database.

Q: How do I collect bird remains if I have a strike?

A: Please watch the released USDA instructional video and see the "Resources" box on the Smithsonian Institution Feather Identification Lab page to learn more about collecting wildlife remains for identification.

Q: When was the first bird strike reported?

A: The first reported bird strike was by Orville Wright in 1905.

Q: How are the bird-remains identified?

A: Many remains are identified by trained wildlife biologists working at the airports. The Smithsonian Institution's Feather Identification Laboratory is able to identify a bird species from its remains. Depending on the condition of the remains, birds can be identified based on physical characteristics, feather fragments, and/or DNA analysis. For additional information, please visit the Smithsonian Institution Feather Identification Lab page.

Q: Are all of the birds struck by aircraft identified?

A: Not all remains are saved or sent to the Smithsonian for identification. In 2012, 56% of the remains from reported strikes with civil aircraft in USA were identified to the species level and an additional 7% were identified to species group.

Q: Are other animals besides birds struck by aircraft?

A: Yes. While 97% of all strikes with civil aircraft in USA involve birds, strikes with other animals such as deer, coyotes, turtles, skunks, bats, and alligators have also been reported. White-tailed deer are the most commonly struck non-bird species, 1990-2012.

Q: What is the bird most commonly struck by aircraft?

A: Gulls (19 species) are the most common type of bird struck by civil aircraft in USA, accounting for 15% of the birds identified in bird strikes, 1990-2012. Waterfowl (ducks and geese) account for 7% of the strikes but are responsible for 30% of the strikes that cause damage to the aircraft.

Q: How do airports reduce the risk of wildlife strikes?

A: Airports reduce the risk of wildlife strikes though integrated wildlife management programs. These programs include changes to the habitat at and in the vicinity of the airport and methods to disperse or remove the birds and other wildlife that pose a risk to aviation safety. For additional information please reference: FAA/USDA manual for managing wildlife hazards at airports (PDF)

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