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Gliders don't travel at the high speeds that make bird strikes so devastating in airliners. However, they are also smaller, lighter and softer, and can still move pretty swiftly.

Are they also vulnerable to bird strikes? What happens when a large bird collides with a glider?

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Gliders, as every other aircraft, are susceptible to bird strikes. This is a detached glider's tail after hitting a 10 kg vulture:

Detached tail due to bird strike

The accident was caused when the crew lost control of the airplane following the loss of a part of the tail assembly after the vertical stabilizer on the airplane struck a griffon vulture head-on.

Some countries are more susceptible to this kind of accidents than others. In Spain, which has a large population of vultures, I routinely hear about fatal accidents due to bird strikes.

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    $\begingroup$ More of a midair collision than a bird strike lol. $\endgroup$ – John K Jun 25 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ Great if you had a source for the fatalities per year. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Jun 26 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ "Injuries ... Crew ... Fatal: 2" $\endgroup$ – Peter Mortensen Jun 26 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @FooBar I couldn't find any official statistic and have therefore removed the estimation, but you can find many other accidents such as this one or this one. $\endgroup$ – Gypaets Jun 26 at 22:57
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You aren't going fast enough for it to be a problem for fibreglass and gelcoat.

You encounter birds all the time in a glider. You soar with them. You spot one thermalling, you join him.

A hawk or eagle will pretty much ignore you unless you pass within 10 ft. I encountered a large brown soaring bird, probably a juvenile bald eagle (they don't get white heads until they are several years old), last week at about 3000 ft in a thermal and passed under it several times, close enough to see it looking back and forth to keep track of me. Then he was gone...

To them a glider is just another big bird.

On tow, you have the tug in front making a racket that drives birds away, so that's not a problem unless the tug runs through a flock of gulls or something on departure.

Some eagles have been known to dive and attack gliders if you fly under them. Bad news for the bird if it takes on the leading edge. I've never heard of a composite glider being substantially damaged by a bird strike but I suppose it's happened and could be a problem if a large bird hit the horizontal tail.

For me, bird encounters are always the highlight of any soaring flight.

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    $\begingroup$ Huge difference between "bird encounter" and "bird strike"! $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jun 27 at 15:14

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