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?
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.
Rüppell's vulture: a 7 to 9 kg bird, living 40 to 50 years:
Damaged compressor after a bird strike (not the involved aircraft):
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
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.