People don

People don

Rachel Nuwer
Published: 06/30/2011


This little guy needs to be careful... Credit: Flickr, FlyForFun
   
Uproar amongst New York City birders and naturalists about the culling—or killing—of Canada geese sparked New York Magazine to run a feature story on the controversy. In short, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) is declaring war on Canada geese in the Big Apple in an attempt to reduce population numbers from roughly 20,000 permanent geese residents to about 5,000. When the birds enter molting season and are at their most vulnerable, they are rounded up and gassed, or else their eggs are sprayed with corn oil so the unborn chicks suffocate.
      
But what’s the justification for this mass goose slaughter? Two words: Bird Strikes.
     
Bird strikes, also referred to as avian ingestion or BASH (Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard), refer to collisions between birds and aircrafts. Though birds laid claim to the sky eons before humans ever ventured into the clouds, increasing airline traffic unfortunately equates with escalating bird-plane encounters.
   

Rose Eveleth, a graduate student at New York University’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program, put together a podcast to help put this issue into perspective.
        
Over the past 30 years, there’s been an estimated 315 goose-plane collisions in the NYC area. Bird strikes made the news in the 2009 when a US Airways plane collided with a flock, causing an emergency landing in the Hudson River. In 2010, a total of 15,454 birds met their doom, according to reports from 11,601 domestic flights.
         

The gruesome remnants of a bird strike. Credit: Flickr, Lucas Country Choppers
              
European starlings were the number one victims, followed by barn swallows, rock pigeons, and mourning doves. But birds aren’t the only ones suffering. Bird strikes resulted in injuries to 17 people and an estimated 38 million dollars in damages.
     
Check out Rose’s bird strike page for more information, including the top ten bird victims.
      

Credit: Flickr, JC Pics