Taking a Closer Look at Airplane-Bird Collisions

While we’re on the subject of flight, ever since that plane landed in the Hudson River a few months ago, the thought of bird-airplane collisions haven’t strayed too far from the media (or my mind each time I fly). In light of all the hoopla, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally gave in and opened up their bird strike database to the public.

Below is an interactive exploring this data breaking things down by bird type, location, phase of flight, and time of day. Click through to this post to view.

Beware of the Canada Goose and gulls, rats of the sea. The sparrow, Mourning Dove, and European Starling seem to get in the way plenty also, but don’t cause nearly as much damage.

On the flip side – poor birds. What a way to go.

Do you see anything interesting?


  • I wasn’t aware that ‘White-tailed deer’ was a bird species.

  • I read somewhere that Memphis was high in the rankings for bird strikes because our airport (KMEM) has the most night traffic due to the FedEx hub. Interesting it isn’t on your chart.

  • There was a pretty funny article in Vanity Fair a few months ago about the Hudson River incident. I think the author may have referenced some of the stats…


  • Simfish Inquilinekea July 16, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Notice how there are no crows on the list (despite their abundance everywhere). Interesting

    • tyler Holcomb July 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

      Crows are probably in the “blackbird” category. Telling a crow from a raven can be difficult even for an avid bird watcher, so it makes sense that call Corvids put medium-size dark bird, such as starlings, are all lumped as “black birds.”

  • Nathan,

    Do you have a link for where the raw data used in this visualization came from?

    I believe there are some key variables that because of their omission, skew the visualization. For instance, if there are a great deal more flights during the day, there will be more Airplane-Bird Collisions during the day. I would be interested in see the percentage of flights that had a collision broken down by time of day instead of just count by time of day.

    I would also be interested in the level of detail goes down to individual airports, and then plot their Lat/Lon on the map instead of the state Lat/Lon with a mark that is sized based on percent of collisions per flights.

    The rarity of a bird species in each state or region may be another factor to consider.

    In order to reach this viewpoint, additional data sources may need to be merged in. But having a link the data source with counts of incidents would a good starting point to reach these goals.

  • So just like the Hudson River incident, I really need to be paranoid, I need to be worried around take-off (as well as approach).

    But I fly a lot in the Southeast. If you click on the Canadian goose line in the bar chart, the map changes. It sure looks like those Canadian geese that are such a problem for other areas are not a problem for where I go – thank goodness.

  • Just came across details of a “white-tailed deer” incident. It confirms that the ‘bird’ was in fact a deer which was hit on take-off!

    Date: 11 January 1990
    Aircraft: Hawker Siddeley
    Airport: John Tune (TN)
    Phase of Flight: Takeoff run
    Damage: Engine (aircraft damaged beyond repair)
    Wildlife Species: White-tailed deer
    Comments from Report: Several deer were struck during takeoff. One was completely ingested in the left engine. The impact tore the engine loose from the aircraft. The aircraft had to be replaced at a cost of $1.4 million.

    Source: http://wildlife.pr.erau.edu/sig_strikes_2009.pdf