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United States Department of TransportationUnited States Department of Transportation

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Q: How often do wildlife strikes occur?

A: There have been about 227,005 wildlife strikes with civil aircraft in USA between 1990 and 2019 (about 17,228 strikes at 753 U.S. airports in 2019). An additional 4,275 strikes have been reported by U.S. Air Carriers at foreign airports, 1990–2019.

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

A: About 53% of bird strikes occur from July to October which is when young birds recently have fledged from nests and fall migration occurs.

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

A: About 63% of bird strikes with civil aircraft occur in day, 8% occur at dawn or dusk, and 29% occur at night.

Q: Do most bird strikes occur while en route, at takeoff, or landing?

A: About 61% of bird strikes with civil aircraft occur during landing phases of flight (descent, approach and landing roll); 36% occur during take-off run and climb; and the remainder (3%) occur during the en-route phase.

Q: At what altitude do most bird strikes occur?

A: Last Sentence: From 1990–2019, there were 29 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 1988 to 2019, there were 292 human fatalities attributed to wildlife strikes globally.

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

A: From 1990 to 2019, there were 327 human injuries attributed to wildlife strikes with U.S. 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 1988 to 2019, there were 271 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 27% of all damaged aircraft components from 1990 to 2019.

Q: What is the economic loss from wildlife strikes?

A: The reported costs for civil aircraft in USA totaled $900 million for the 30-year period, 1990 to 2019. When costs are adjusted reported strikes in which costs were not provided, and the estimated number of strikes that were not reported, losses could be as high as $500 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 while flying over a corn field in Ohio 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 2019, 61% of the remains from reported strikes with civil aircraft in USA were identified to the species level and an additional 11% 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, alligators, and iguanas have also been reported. White-tailed deer and coyotes are the most commonly struck non-bird species, 1990–2019.

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

A: Mourning doves are the most common species of bird struck by civil aircraft in USA, accounting for 11% of the birds identified to exact species, 1990–2019. Waterfowl (ducks and geese) account for only 5% of the strikes but are responsible for 28% 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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