The following is a list of questions and answers on the issue of Avoiding Bird Hazards. As we enter into the spring flying season, many pilots find themselves sharing the skies with migrating flocks of birds. Knowing a little about their migration habits may be helpful if you find yourself flying during the peak migration seasons of Spring and Fall.

1. What are the major bird migration seasons?

The main migration seasons in North America are Spring (Mar. thru Apr.) and Fall (Aug. thru Nov.).

2. What are the altitiudes that you may find migrating birds at?

The altitudes of migrating birds will vary with winds aloft, weather, fronts, terrain elevations, butt conditions, & environmental variables. Remember they are subject to the same four forces of flight and flying conditions that you are!

3. At what altitude are you most likely to encounter birds?

90% of the reported bird strikes occur at or below 3,000 ft. AGL. Bird strikes at higher altitudes are more common during migration season.

4. Which birds create the greatest harazd to aircraft?

Gulls, waterfowl, vultures, hawks, owls, egrets, blackbirds, and starlings are considered the greatest potential hazard to aircraft because of their size, abundance, or habit of flying in dense flocks, espescally during migration season.

5. What are the four major migratory flyways in North America?

Bird migration is generally thought of as a north-and-south movement, with the lanes of heavier concentration following the coasts, mountain ranges and principal river valleys. The four major North American migration flyways are:

  1. The Atlantic flyway, which parallels the Atlantic coast.
  2. The Mississippi flyway.
  3. The Central flyway.
  4. The Pacific flyway, which parallels the Pacific coast.

For more detailed info on the bird migration flyways (including maps) check out the following webpage on the subject at

6. What are pilots recommended to do when encountering birds in flight?

When encountering birds during flight, pilots are recommended to climb to avoid collision.

7. What can pilots do to make themselves more visible to birds?

Turning ON the landing lights or strobes will make your aircraft more visible to birds in the air.

8. Where can pilots find more information on bird hazards and flight info over National Refuges, Parks, and Forests?

That information can be found in the AIM, Chapter 7, Section 4.

9. If you observe birds or other animals on or near the runway, what should you do?

You should contact airport management or control tower and report the sighting. Pilots can contact the nearest FAA ARTCC, FSS, or Tower (including non federal towers) regarding large flocks of birds, and report the:

  1. Geographic location.
  2. Bird type (greese, ducks, gulls, etc.)
  3. Approximate numbers.
  4. Altitude.
  5. Direction of bird flight path.

10. What altitude should pilots fly at over National Parks and Game Preserves?

Accordiong to the AIM Section 7-4-6, pilots are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 ft. AGL above the surface of the following:

  1. National Parks, Monuments, Seashores, Lakeshores, Recreation Areas, and Scenic Riverways administered by the National Park Service.
  2. National Wildlife Refuges, Big Game Refuges, Game Ranges, and Wildlife Ranges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  3. Wilderness and Primitive Areas administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

All of which can have a large amount of wildlife and bird activity in and around them.

11. What should you do if a you have a bird strike?

Pilots are urged to report any bird or other wildlife strike using FAA Form 5200-7, “Bird/Other Wildlife Strike Report”. You can find this form at the following location on the FAA website: Form 5200-7 – BIRD / OTHER WILDLIFE STRIKE REPORT.


Here are some other online resources on the topic that you may find interesting:

“Bird Strikes: Hazards and Avoidance”, A Powerpoint Presentation on the subject sponsored by the FAA Aviation Safety Program.

“The FAA Wildlife Strike Database”, The FAA Wildlife Strike Database contains records of reported wildlife strikes since 1990. Strike reporting is voluntary. Therefore, this database only represents the information we have received from airlines, airports, pilots, and other sources.