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70% of birds fly below 1,500ft, 25% of birds fly between 1,500ft and 15,000ft, and only 5% above 15,000ft. What is the greatest height at which a bird has hit an aircraft? What species was the bird?

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    $\begingroup$ One got ingested at 37000 feet mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/… $\endgroup$ – DJohnM Mar 21 '17 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ What kind of height, or altitude? True altitude, pressure altitude, height above ground? In the upper flight levels, extremes of condition could theoretically yield variation of thousands of feet between true and pressure altitude, for example. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Mar 22 '17 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ What I knew (and this doesn't necessary contradict you, only helps to set more percentual boundaries) is that 90% of the birds are within 3000 ft AGL. That's why airliners try to hold the speed between 160 and 180 KIAS when taking off or landing if ATC report bird spotting or collision from previous traffic. :) $\endgroup$ – Germano Cavalcanti Apr 10 '17 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ While not at flight levels, I have during the winter somewhat frequently seen eagles over central New York, at 13,000 to 15,000. However, I do not know anyone who has hit one at those altitudes. $\endgroup$ – mongo Oct 29 '17 at 23:46
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Wikipedia:

An aircraft over the Ivory Coast collided with a Rüppell's vulture at the altitude of 11,300 m (37,100 ft), the current record avian height.

This happened on November, 29 1973.

This is well above the height of Everest (29,029 ft) and the lack of oxygen would kill most other birds.

"Since then studies on this vulture revealed a number of features in their haemoglobin and a number of cardio-vascular adaptations that allow breathing in rarefied atmosphere," explains Mr Thomsett.

The engine was shutdown during the collision, and was not restarted, it was possible to retrieve a few feathers in the engine, and determine the species.

Source.

Rüppell's vulture: a 7 to 9 kg bird, living 40 to 50 years:

enter image description here
Source.

Damaged compressor after a bird strike (not the involved aircraft):

enter image description here
Source.

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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanWalters -- I believe it was originally reported as a FL by the pilots $\endgroup$ – UnrecognizedFallingObject Mar 22 '17 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ How did they identify the flying object that impacted the plane? $\endgroup$ – Aron Mar 22 '17 at 4:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Aron: By a few feathers in the engine (the engine was shutdown during the collision, and not restarted). See the second article at the bottom of the first page. What I like in this industry is the depth of the investigations. $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 22 '17 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ What I'd like to know is: what on earth do vultures need to do at 37'000 feet? $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Apr 7 '17 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ @DanieleProcida: Vultures try not to flap their wings, so they soar, and are very efficient at it. The probable reason to be that high is to take advantage of thermals to fly on long distances, to find their preys. $\endgroup$ – mins Apr 7 '17 at 23:27
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Highest I've ever heard of is 40,000 ft.

On May 19, 2014 Atlas Air flight GTI8665, a 767-300 freighter, reported a bird strike at FL400 over Indiana. They were unable to tell what type of bird it was but the pilots reported that there were guts on the windshield. The windshield was broken and the aircraft was diverted.

Pilot: Center Giant 8665 Heavy

Controller: Giant 8665 go

Pilot: Believe it or not we just had a bird strike up here [...] left windshield, we're okay

Controller: Giant 8665 do you need any assistance there then?

...

Another flight: What altitude was that bird strike?

Controller: That was Flight Level 4-0-0

...

Controller: If you had to guess was it just one bird there, did you see any other birds in the vicinity of that hit?

Pilot: To the best of my knowledge it was a single bird sir, we do have guts on the windshield and the outer paint is cracked...

Controller: ... Definitely an anomaly I think [...] 4-0-0

Pilot: Yeah 4-0-0 he may have been on oxygen I dunno

ATC Recording

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Has anyone analyzed this case further? $\endgroup$ – UnrecognizedFallingObject Mar 21 '17 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ @UnrecognizedFallingObject I dunno. I just remember hearing that recording. I think there's only one species of vulture that is even capable of flying that high $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Mar 21 '17 at 23:16
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The wikipedia article on the Rüppell's vulture has an interesting footnote which leads a pdf of The Wilson Bulletin dated December 1974(!) which details the following other instances of high flying birds, including the one mentioned here:

Collision between a vulture and an aircraft at an altitude of 37,000 feet.-On 29 November 1973, a Riippells ’ Griffon (Gyps rueppellii) collided with a commercial aircraft at 37,000 ft over Abijan, Ivory Coast, western Africa. The altitude is that recorded by the pilot shortly after the impact, which damaged one of the aircrafts ’ engines and caused it to be shut down. The plane landed safely at Abijan without further incident. The remains of the vulture consisted of five complete and 15 partial feathers from the 461 462 THE WILSON BULLETIN December 1974 Vol. 86, No. 4 wings (secondaries, lesser, and underwing coverts), tail, neck, and breast. Sufficient details arc apparent in these feathers to allow their certain identification as G. rueppellii, using comparative material in the U.S. National Museum of Natural History. The previous record altitude for a bird-aircraft collision was of a Mallard (Anus platyrhynchos) at 21,000 ft (Manville, Wilson Bull., 75:92, 1963), based on feathers that I identified from the strike. That collision occurred between Battle Mountain and Elko, Nevada, on 9 July 1962. Other high-altitude records of birds include sightings of migrating geese at 29,000 ft, over the Himalayas (Griffin, Bird Migration, Natural History Press, Garden City, N.Y., 1964), and soaring Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus) at over 24,000 ft (Ah, Birds of Sikkim, Oxford University Press, London, 1962).-ROXIE C. LAYBOURNE, National Fish and Wildlife Laboratory, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. 20560. Accepted 7 June 1974.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, it does provide an answer. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell Oct 30 '17 at 14:00

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