According to this Wikipedia page on bird strike,

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) reported 65,139 bird strikes for 2011-14, and the Federal Aviation Authority counted 177,269 wildlife strike reports on civil aircraft between 1990 and 2015, growing 38% in 7 years from 2009 to 2015. Birds accounted for 97%.

  • What precautions are taken so that birds are not killed by aircraft?

  • Is the pilot held responsible or does the pilot pay some penalty in case innocent animals are killed?

  • Are there any planes which have been designed specifically focusing on bird safety (or have there been any efforts in designing planes focused on bird safety)?

  • Where can I get reports on the number of bird strikes per year on an international level?

Note: This question does not concern the damages the airline suffers from bird strikes.

Update In Addition To Other Answers

Why jet engines are NEVER protected in the front?!

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    $\begingroup$ You should consider splitting this into multiple questions. You are asking four questions at once here. $\endgroup$
    – Jimy
    Jul 20, 2017 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ To be "held responsible" implies some sort of malintent/carelessness. I don't think any pilot has much control, nor ill-intention, when a birdstrike occurs. Its not like they fly around looking for birds to hit. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jul 20, 2017 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ "Does the pilot pays some penalty in case when innocent animal killed?" The pilot is punished by a hefty repair bill at best, and with his ( and possibly his passengers) life in return at worst. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jul 20, 2017 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ Related: 1) what precautions are taken so that mosquitos are not killed by the impact with a car's windshield driving faster than 30km/h? 2) Is driver held responsible or does he pay some penalty when innocent insects are killed? 3) Is there any car which has been specifically designed focusing insect safety? 4) Where can I get reports of information of number of insects killed per year on an international level? $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2017 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ @GypsyCosmonaut you might want to consider the simple fact that the real environmental impact of airplanes is that they are very polluting. It is a safe bet that they kill far more species through pollution than the odd bird impact. It seems strange that you'd choose to focus on such a minor source of avian deaths. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 21, 2017 at 15:18

7 Answers 7


Humans are more important than animals by "most" societal standards. Therefore, bird safety is secondary to human safety (pilots and passengers). However, there are certain areas (in US) that are designated as protected areas for certain types of birds, such as in California where I have seen protected areas for the California Condor which requires pilots to fly at a certain altitude above that area. On VFR Sectional Charts the special conservation areas are depicted as indicated here:

enter image description here

These conservation area restrictions are mostly to avoid disturbing the birds, but I assume it also reduces the risk of a bird strike by requiring the aircraft to fly higher over these areas.

One of the most important precautions is for pilots to remain vigilant and see and avoid, but that is not always possible when a flock of thousands of birds takes off near an airport when airplanes are landing and taking off.

Some airports use various methods (see links provided) to scare flocks of birds away such as using hawks, noise, and other methods.

enter image description here enter image description here

I don't know of any aircraft that are designed for the safety of birds. I believe this is a very low priority in aircraft design.

Try checking the Audubon Society website, they have a lot of information on risk to birds and statistics on such risks.

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    $\begingroup$ Some aircraft are inherently bird-safe: birds can usually dodge aircraft moving at 70 knots or slower, so ultralights and some small aircraft pretty much don't get hit. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Jul 21, 2017 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ "I don't know of any aircraft that are designed for bird safety." Birds hitting the structure of an aircraft are not usually a big deal, except for relatively fragile parts such as the cockpit windows. In any case, birds will only hit the "front-facing" parts of the structure, which excludes most of the fuselage. On the other hand designing and certifying aircraft engines against bird strike is a very big deal, with detailed airworthiness requirements. $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Jul 21, 2017 at 3:16
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    $\begingroup$ @alephzero I’m pretty sure that in that sentence, “designed for bird safety” refers to safety of the birds. Aircraft engines are not designed and certified to ensure safety of the striking birds, but to ensure the safety of the engine. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2017 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ There is 0.0 concern about bird safety in engine design. Indeed the bird strike considerations in large engine design is that (obviously) the engine has to survive intact, and that means the animal has to be ideally shredded as finely as possible as quickly as possible. This is an incredibly difficult engineering challenge, given that some birds are large and the speeds involved are enormous. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Sep 27, 2018 at 14:11

In aviation, the question is not what precautions are taken to save birds from being killed by aircraft, the question is what precautions are taken to prevent aircraft being hit by birds.

To prevent bird strikes at airports, several precautions will be taken.

Making birds not feel comfortable in the airport area

This will be achieved by doing following things:

  • Tall Grass The grass at airports is usually kept tall (> 25cm). This allows mice to hide and many birds, that rely on such food, can't see them.

  • Removing sources of food In the vicinity of the airport, all occurrences of the rowanberry will be removed. Birds have lost a big food source.

In some cases, fireworks are used to evict birds from the airport area. But this happens very rarely, because the birds can get used to it.

At Frankfurt airport, they have even brought ten foxes to live in the airport. They hope they eat most of the mice, so birds will find even less mice to eat.

Another system in Frankfurt detects big swarms of migratory birds flying over the Main River. Because the Main River crosses the approach on one runway, they always have to know if birds are flying over the river. The system detects swarms and calculates estimated arrival at the runway track. ATC will be automatically warned.

The pilot is also not responsible when innocent animals get killed. It is impossible to avoid a bird. It is usually not seen before impact as well. I talked with a drone pilot from the Austrian army once. He said the crew of an airplane needs around 10-13 seconds to detect an object, to be able to take action. A bird strike can be predicted maybe 1 second before impact. A pilot can do absolutely nothing.

It looks like you like birds very much, me too, but in aviation, human safety is always the first priority.

There are also no aircraft that are designed for bird safety. I can't even imagine how something like that could work. Sorry to say it: aviation has so many other more important things to consider. Saving birds' lives is not important in this industry.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ After reading your answer, I saw the Irony here. We a made bird which killed the birds. We care for the bird but not for the birds. $\endgroup$ Jul 20, 2017 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ " I talked with a drone pilot from the Austrian army once. He said it takes around 10-13 seconds for a crew of an airplane to detect an object. A bird strike can be predicted maybe 1 second before impact." I dont understand what you mean, does it take 1 second or 13 seconds to detect birds? $\endgroup$
    – Kxy
    Jul 21, 2017 at 16:03

A pilot can face stiff fines or community service, though these penalties can be difficult to enforce, as the pilots and FAA rarely honor the results of the proceedings.

enter image description here

Jurors leave the "Massacre on the Hudson" trial after declaring a hung jury.

For instance in the famous "Massacre on the Hudson" trial, matters of poor airgooseship dominated the trial: Whether the inexperienced skein leader was in fact squawking, and whether he was listening to the advice of geese more experienced operating in the New York TRACON. Also, the gaggle had failed to check NOTAGs for the region, though no NOTAGs of concern had been issued.

Ultimately in a second trial, the jury declined to find criminal wrongdoing, and issued a civil sanction that geese should poop on USAir aircraft on the ground when practicable. This seems to have been effective, as such aircraft largely disappeared in 2016.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer is as unappreciated as it is well done! This is precisely the answer this question needs & deserves. Very nicely played indeed! $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jul 23, 2017 at 5:15
  1. It is more the other way around: How to save aircraft from being hit by birds and by default; no hit on the aircraft means the bird is happy as well. The danger comes from the bird damaging the aircraft or incapacitating the flight crew possibly causing even more carnage on the ground.

  2. Unless the bird is an endangered species or the pilot deliberately attempted to strike the bird, I am unaware of any "penalties" for a bird strike. If anything, the penalty is going to be harsh in that the pilot or his insurance company for the damage or loss to the aircraft and/or persons. No pilot in his/her right mind would ever deliberately attempt strike a bird in flight.

  3. Yes, the LearJets contain a metal blade from to to bottom in the middle of the windscreen specifically designed as a "bird splitter". This is to reduce the amount of impact against the windscreen (although birds have bypassed the splitter and decapitated pilots). (Reference: http://www.royalair.com/PDFs/Learjet_Product_History.pdf Models 24 and 24A, page 4)

  4. You can contact the National Transportation Safety Board to search for bird strike information as it relates to bird strikes on transportation.

All in all compared to birds striking wind turbines, highway vehicles, etc., the amount of strikes against aircraft are relatively low.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have any reference for the design of the LearJet to specifically have a blade for bird strikes? That's a pretty amusing fact. $\endgroup$
    – JPhi1618
    Jul 20, 2017 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ Also, compared to the number of birds killed by wind turbines, aircraft strikes are relatively low. $\endgroup$
    – Devil07
    Jul 20, 2017 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ Are there cases of intentionally hitting birds? $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Jul 20, 2017 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ Concerning #3, I don't think the OP had "bird splitter" in mind when they asked about "bird safety design". $\endgroup$
    – isanae
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ @tnorris the bird, not the pilot. $\endgroup$ Jul 20, 2017 at 20:03


Gives some examples for our local airport. But essentially:

To protect birds

Don't build airports in habitats that are unique and house endangered birds. Build theme where the birds can go elsewhere.

To Protect the people

  • dogs
  • lights
  • sirens
  • bangs
  • guns
  • bleak barren land
  • spikes
  • fencing
  • lack of food and water

All help keep the birds away.


To answer your question, “What precautions are taken to avoid bird strikes?” Pilots try to avoid birds and areas with high amounts of bird activity as much as possible. We don’t want to strike birds. They damage aircraft and risk human lives. Aviation wether reports, notices to airmen, airfield surface observation radio reports, chart supplements, and other information dissemination resources will note when bird activity is likely at airfields. When a pilot unintentionally hits a bird, there are no civil or criminal penalties in the US as long as the pilot was following acceptable airmanship practices. No aircraft mass produced at this time are designed with the safety of birds in mind. They are designed with the safety of humans in mind. Many organizations like the NTSB will track aviation incidents like animal encounters.

While I can appreciate your opinion and concern for this subject, and applaud your trying to start a dialogue to raise awareness of the issue, it strikes me as misplaced.

I am a pilot who lives next to a nature preserve. I can see first hand the circle of life happen everyday outside of my window. I see a similar circle of life happen at my local Class D airport of similar size. Airplanes contribute a disproportionately small impact on the total number of avian deaths. Nature kills far more birds in the nearby nature preserve than the random aircraft birdstrike.

My local Class D airport is a rather busy airport for its Class and size. Yet, we only see one or two bird strikes a month during some seasons and one a week during other, high bird activity, seasons. Compare this to the multiple birds per day being killed in the local nature preserve of similar size. These deaths are caused by domestic cats, feral cats, bobcats, foxes, lucky coyotes, snakes, snapping turtles, hawks, owls, and other predatory birds and animals. There is even a type of bird who destroys the eggs of other birds. Then, they lays their own eggs in other birds nests for the nest owners to raise. Considering the much larger number of bird deaths being caused by other animals, is there no concern for their death on your part? Especially those killed by domestic cats. These little murderers can kill several birds a day for sport and not for food or survival.

I can not put an exact number on how many birds are killed by other animals. But, a quick internet search will bring up how many birds are killed by man through food production and hunting alone. These numbers are reaching 100 billion birds a year. This makes the 65 thousand in a 3 year period killed in impacts with aircraft pale in comparison. This does not even take into account the birds killed due to the destruction of their habitats by encroaching human settlement.

You are trying to solve a very, very small part of a much larger problem. Your question might as well be what precautions are being taken to avoid innocent birds from being eaten by humans and other animals.

  • $\begingroup$ "Considering the much larger number of bird deaths being caused by other animals, is there no concern for their death on your part?" - Bravo! $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Jun 9, 2020 at 11:11

How Airports keep birds away?
Most airports combine a lot of methods to keep birds away, such as Standing Lasers, Pyrotechnics, Propane Cannons, Visual Effects, Natural Predators (i.e. Falconry), Traps and even adjusting the height of the grass at the airfield.

How does pyrotechnics work at airports to keep birds away?
The key of using pyrotechnics is combining sounds and visual effects to create a stimulus that attracts birds primary instincts. This can be done with a variety of pyrotechnics of varying range, colours, and blasts that can make birds fell that the place is not safe to stay. However, the correct training of bird controllers is also essential. A true specialist knows there is not a “silver bullet” in airport bird control. A complete toolbox and well-trained professionals are needed for a successful Wildlife Control Program.

What is a birdstrike?
It is a collision between a bird and an aircraft which is in flight or on a takeoff or landing roll. The term is often expanded to cover other wildlife strikes.

from: https://airportbirdcontrol.com/airport-bird-control-6-most-asked-questions-and-answers/

  • $\begingroup$ You may add robot birds to the list. $\endgroup$
    – bogl
    Jul 19, 2019 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ Although you've indicated the source of this text, there's no indication on that website that permission is given to copy the content. $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2019 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ David, I am the author of the post... $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2019 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlosBisio it would be good of you to include this disclaimer every time you post one of your articles. It will save a variety of people having to ask about it, as well as meeting SE's policies about disclosure, and, possibly having your posts deleted as spam (because you don't indicate your link). $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Jul 19, 2019 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks FreeMan, would do it. $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2019 at 19:15

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