I've heard about lots of bird strike incidents that occured during a takeoff roll or the early phase of takeoff climb but hardly heard of bird strikes on approach or landing. Are bird strikes much less common on approach or landing than on takeoff or initial takeoff climb? If they are, why is it?

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    $\begingroup$ You've heard more about bird strikes on take-offs because they're potentially more dangerous (plane climbing at high power with a broken engine isn't a good thing). Landing is more passive - plane will still make a safe landing, disembark passengers and then roll off to get the engine fixed. I guess that landing bird strikes just aren't reported as much as take-off strikes. $\endgroup$
    – user12007
    Aug 1, 2017 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ @pete secondary to that, if a plane suffers a bird strike on take-off, it may change it's plans and land, very noticeable. If a plane suffers a bird strike on landing it's still going to land, and the passengers may not even notice. $\endgroup$
    – JeffUK
    Aug 1, 2017 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ Its surprising that bird strikes happen even at an altitude of 37,000 ft. $\endgroup$
    – Firee
    Aug 1, 2017 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Pete not necessarily. Transport-class planes generally are unable to glide at the standard airport glide-slope! If they have a double engine failure on final approach, they will fall short. British Airways pilots did some serious pilot-fu to get the only mechanically related hull loss of a 777 to crash inside the airport perimeter. Boeing doesn't make engines. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2017 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ Checking AV Herald you'll see bird strikes are a monthly occurrence. and deer/caribou/moose strikes are semi-annual. I wouldn't rely on it for statistics as I think it's one guy who gleans the news each day for airline related stories. $\endgroup$
    – Bageletas
    Aug 1, 2017 at 17:01

2 Answers 2


I've heard about lots of bird strike incidents that occured during a takeoff roll or the early phase of takeoff climb but hardly heard of bird strikes on approach or landing.

This is always a dangerous thing. Only because you hear more bird strikes that occur on takeoff, it does not mean there are more at takeoff.

I found, for example, this report about bird strikes from the year 2000. It says:

[...] 38% of the bird strikes occurred during take-off and climb, and 56% during approach [...]

That means there are more bird strikes during approach than on takeoff. I assume things haven't changed a lot since then.

This question is even answered in the Wildlife FAQ Section of the FAA:

Q: Do most bird strikes occur while in flight, at takeoff, or landing?

A: About 60% of bird strikes with civil aircraft occur during landing phases of flight (descent, approach and landing roll); 37% occur during take-off run and climb; and the remainder occur during the en-route phase.

A more specific statistic:

Bird-Strike Statistics


Possible reason for subjective perception of bird-strikes happening more often during departure

I thought a little about it and came to following possible reason: After a bird-strike on final, the pilots will continue landing. It would be unwise not to land immediately. For the passengers it will look like a normal landing. If the bird damages the engine, there is only a small change of sound, because the engines are running very low.

However, when a bird-strike occurs while taking off, there is immediate action taken by the pilots. And because the engines are at or near full thrust, the sound of a dying engine can be perceived by the passengers. Last but not least, a departing aircraft has a much higher speed than a landing one, which means more damage.

So, for newspapers, a bird-strike at take-off is more dramatic and drama sells.

  • More damage to the plane than a bird-strike on final
  • Passengers not reaching their destination
  • Dramatic passenger interviews about their "near-death-experience"

A newspaper is not interested in a bird-strike on final, where everything went fine and no passenger noticed anything.

To support my theorem, I googled "bird strike" and clicked on the "News"-tab. I looked through every article that had to do something with an bird-strike incident. 5 out of 6 articles were about a bird-strike on take-off. That's over 80%.

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    $\begingroup$ I would assume that this is correlated to the time spent in lower altitudes where birds are more frequent. If the initial climb rate after take-off is higher than the usual sink-rate during approach, the aircraft will spend less time in lower altitudes in climbout than during approach. $\endgroup$
    – nabla
    Aug 1, 2017 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ @lemonincider No, sorry, I couldn't find information about this. But I have to agree, that I think most bird strikes happen on short final. I guess there are less news about this because it's not very dramatic. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2017 at 7:49
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    $\begingroup$ Having seen that graph, I now want to ask a question about the dangers of pie-chart strikes in different phases of flight... $\endgroup$
    – psmears
    Aug 1, 2017 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ I think bird strikes on approach would be more common also because, at least in GA aircraft, the approach is quieter than the takeoff. A full power climbing aircraft would be much louder, giving birds more warning. $\endgroup$
    – PJNoes
    Aug 1, 2017 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ Have to also add.. a bird-strike when the engine is at take-off max-rpm is far more destructive to the engine. It's not so much what the bird does.. it's how much the engine tears itself apart. More RPM = more catastrophic failure per unit initial damage. $\endgroup$
    – Trevor_G
    Aug 2, 2017 at 16:29

If its true that birdstrikes are more common on landing, a possible reason for this could be noise.

Aircraft taking off at 100% power are making a lot more noise than an aircraft on final at or near idle. Birds flying through the air may not hear an idling aircraft coming from behind. Keep in mind that a bird flying through the air at 30 or 40 knots has a lot of wind noise around its head, (similar to sticking your head out the window of your car), so unless the aircraft is making a lot of noise (such as during take-off) the bird may not turn its head to see the 737 approaching from behind.

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    $\begingroup$ Imagines a sparrow "turning its head" and seeing a 747 "approaching" $\endgroup$
    – tar
    Aug 2, 2017 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ @tar me thinks a sparrow would go through without even a hiccup from the engine. A Canada-Goose however.... will do a damage. $\endgroup$
    – Trevor_G
    Aug 2, 2017 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ @tar True story about a 747 flying into Anchorage Alaska: The flight crew noticed they were coming up behind an eagle, which was presumably also heading for land, since it had a large fish in its claws. The eagle did notice the plane and decided to take evasive action - which included dropping the fish. After landing, the remains of a 15 pound salmon were found in #2 engine of the 747. Some you win, some you lose! $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Aug 2, 2017 at 21:56

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