Bird strikes rise across U.S.


POSTED: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reports of airplanes hitting birds and other wildlife surged nationally last year, including serious accidents such as the forced landing of an Airbus A320 with 155 passengers and crew into the Hudson River on Jan. 15, according to an Associated Press analysis of new government data.

The government's tally for all bird strikes last year could reach or even exceed 10,000 for the first time. The previous high was 7,507 in 2007.

More than a dozen states across two migration routes from Minnesota to Texas have seen increases in bird strikes.

“;Birds and planes are fighting for airspace, and it's getting increasingly crowded,”; said Richard Dolbeer, an expert on bird-plane collisions advising the Federal Aviation Administration and the Agriculture Department.

But in Hawaii, bird strikes have been decreasing, from 256 in 2005 to 152 in 2008.

In 2005 a Boeing 757 airplane made a precautionary landing at Lihue Airport after a barn owl struck an engine. Federal Aviation Administration officials said the engine was removed and replaced in four days at a cost of $1 million.

Federal officials said Hawaii is not among the states to witness high increases because it is away from main bird migratory routes.





        Number of birds striking airplanes at some Hawaii airports:


Honolulu Airport6848
Lihue Airport2855
Kahului Airport2519
Hilo Airport1611
Kona Airport10
Kapalua Airport 119
Lanai Airport44



But other airplanes at Hawaii airports have made precautionary landings or aborted takeoffs due to bird strikes or the potential of bird strikes, said Mark Ono, a program wildlife biologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture involved in controlling bird populations near Hawaii's airports.

Ono said the birds involved in striking airplanes in Hawaii have been small.

One of them is the Pacific golden plover, with an average weight of 5 ounces and airplane strikes in Hawaii totaling at least 470 since 1990.

Ono said airplanes have struck the golden plover the most of any bird in Hawaii.

He said the golden plover migrates from Siberia and Alaska to Hawaii annually and is on a global decline in numbers.

Ono said the goal is to discourage birds from becoming comfortable flying near the airport.





Birds struck by airplanes in Hawaii from 1990 to July 2009:



Golden plovers467
Shearwaters, petrels12
Hawaiian ducks2
Hawaiian hawks1


        Source: Federal Aviation Administration



He said it is difficult to determine the cause of fluctuations in the number of bird strikes upon airplanes in Hawaii because the number of birds as well as airplane flights vary from season to season.

Nationally, there were at least 57 cases in the first seven months of 2009 that caused serious damage, and at least eight people died and six more were hurt.

The destroyed planes include the Airbus A320 that went into the Hudson after hitting a flock of Canada geese. No lives were lost in that dramatic river landing.

But when a Sikorsky helicopter crashed en route to an oil platform last January after hitting a red-tailed hawk near Morgan City, La., the two pilots and six of seven passengers were killed. The lone survivor was critically injured.

Star-Bulletin reporter Gary T. Kubota and The Associated Press contributed to this report.