Aug. 9, 2021
An updated FAA and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services report shows 11,605 wildlife strikes were reported in 2020, including the Cerulean Warbler, struck by an aircraft on April 28, 2020, in North Carolina, as the 600th species of bird in the FAA’s National Wildlife Strike Database (NWSD).
“That’s a 33% decrease from the record 17,359 strikes reported in 2019,” said Mark Larsen, CAM, NBAA’s director of safety and flight operations. “But that decline is directly related to the reduction of flight operations during the pandemic, so last year’s declining strike number should not become the seed of complacency, because the number of damaging strikes per 100,000 operations remained stable.”
The identification of the Cerulean Warbler reinforces the importance of wildlife strike vigilance on every flight by the aircraft crew and airport personnel, as well as their participation in the FAA wildlife strike reporting program.
“This milestone in species diversity symbolizes the complexity of wildlife management and engineering programs to mitigate the risk that bird strikes pose to aviation safety,” said the report, which is a collaboration that documents incidents in the NWSD and researches and evaluates airport habitat management and control efforts and communicates their effectiveness.
Looking at data from 1990 to 2020, the report identifies the 33 bird species most often struck by aircraft, and the bigger the bird, the greater the potential damage. In 2020, the FAA continued its multifaceted approach to mitigating wildlife strikes by publishing new guidance, continuing its outreach efforts, making improvements to the NWSD and offering airport grants to develop wildlife management plans.
No segment of aviation is immune to wildlife strikes, said Larsen, and reviewing the significant strikes of 2020 reinforces the reality of when and where they occur and the species involved, from the milestone warbler to the November strike of a brown bear.