Bird strikes on the rise


Bird strikes are on the rise across Australia according to a report released yesterday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Between 2008 and 2017, there were 16,626 confirmed bird strikes with 2017 having the highest number with 1921 strikes.

‘Wildlife strikes in Australian aviation have increased significantly over the past ten years and continue to pose a safety risk to aircraft operators,’ the ATSB said.

The majority of bird strikes occur within 5 km from the aerodrome, and most involved bird ingestion into an engine of high-capacity air transport aircraft. Brisbane recorded more incidents than any other city with 1139 strikes, followed by Sydney (1073), Darwin (984) Cairns (878) and Melbourne (726). However, the majority of bird strikes happened at an unknown location (1145) as pilots are often unaware of a bird strike until remnants of the bird is found and reported by aerodrome staff.

Bird strike locations across Australia 2008–2017

A display at the recent Avalon air show was cancelled when a hawk was sucked into the enormous jet of the mighty USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster (see video).

So, who are these unlucky birds? Nearly 40 per cent of all bird strikes involved an unknown species of bird as pilots often, literally, don’t know what has hit them or don’t have time to identify the species. Where the bird type was known, galahs, plovers, bats, magpies and flying foxes were the most common species to come off second best after their encounter with a plane.

Australia’s air safety investigator has appealed for more detailed information from pilots and airport operators and encourages anyone involved in an accident or incident to report it. ‘The more detailed the information that is provided to the ATSB, the more accurate and useful reports like this one will be.’

Ground-based animal strikes were relatively rare. Between 2008 and 2017, there were 396 animal strikes, the most common being hares and rabbits, kangaroos, wallabies, foxes and snakes, with even two rats and a wombat hit! Although the vast majority of wildlife strikes do not result in any damage or operational consequence, the ATSB cautions that they still pose a serious safety risk to aircraft.

Birds can cause severe damage. In 2017, a Badr Airlines Boeing 737 was struck by birds in Sudan and the nose of the aircraft completely caved in. The pilot was able to land the aircraft safely and there were no injuries, but the story could have been very different.

CASA looked at bird strikes in OutnBack series II. The series includes tips to avoid them such as choosing runways that avoid known bird or flying fox congregations, and considering a delayed take-off or a go-around if you see birds on or near the strip.

Flight Safety Australia investigated bird strikes in May 2016, and heard similar observations about how solutions to the issue depended on accurate identification of bird species.

CASA has also published an advisory circular to assist aerodrome operators with the management of wildlife hazards.


  1. Another new issue are Rats eating wiring and in a case I know punctured the coolant hose in a rotax Rotax. A great way around hangars is 50cm off cut of water down pipe drill hole in middle for a tent peg peg and load with 4 small bait blocks feeding them through the hole in about 4 blocks. Place them WELL AWAY from hangar and you feed the rats before they come near the hangar.

  2. We share the space with creatures that where born to be there in their own natural environment,not us!
    Having the majority of our dromes coastal means a high impact rate. Like us humans they go where the food/water supply is or can be sort.
    I’ve lost count of the amount of birds I’ve hit over the years, just part of the dangers of flying in their airspace, not ours!

  3. The location of the airport matters very much because for example if it is located near water bodies I expect heavy bird activies 24hrs.Try to identify the dominant birds and have a data base for proper pro-active measures. Birdstrike are commom in every airport in the world.

  4. Rockhampton Regional Council built their airport on a swamp with a water mass at the end of its run way. Near by is their botanical gardens . Home to a small colony of flying foxes dispite dispersal of flying foxes proven to he unsuccessful the constant harrassment of flying foxes still in a starvation event from drought and fire in Australia poses a bigger threat as these flying Mammals fly become even more exhausted and unable to get out if the wat if craft landing and taking off at dusk

  5. I believe the alternate flashing of landing lights by Qantas link Dash 8 does help with visibility and am of the belief these aircraft are more noticeable to birds (guess it needs researching). Perhaps REX could consider same on their Saab 340 as know they have had bird strike at Bathurst and by far the worst airport I have been is Julia Creek. There is a warning in ERSA. Many aerodromes in particular ALAs have had government grants for kangaroo proof fencing kall adds to safety) and perhaps this could be listed in ERSA notes.. Rolleston and Jericho qld now have the 2.3 high fencing and this is soon to happen at Dingo and Capella. Thankyou Mr McCormick for improving safety and in particular does help RFDS.

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