US Air Miracle: Why Canada Geese Love New York City

By Thomas Nagorski

Jan 18, 2009 7:07pm

Now that the world has marveled at the miracle — the survival of all 155 souls on board that flight that landed in the Hudson River — some of us who fly frequently from that same airport (New York’s La Guardia) have another concern, or question: how worried should I be about the birds? Well, here’s an answer, from an intrepid ABC producer: Just as New York City is a hub for people, it’s also the place to be for birds. Over the past few decades, state agencies and wildlife advocacy groups in the region have encouraged the nesting of migratory birds. Now hundreds of thousands of Canada geese (and other species) are flying into planes, waddling through yards and leaving their droppings on golf courses all year round. In 2008, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service bird census, more than 1 million Canada geese were settled along the East Coast. (Though that’s 9 percent lower than in 2007.) According to the USDA, New Jersey has the highest density of Canada Geese of any state along the coast. While most birds that strike airplanes (or vice versa) are gulls, geese and ducks are far more dangerous. Waterfowl are involved in just 9 percent of all birdstrikes, according to USDA, but they account for 31 percent of all strikes that cause damage. The concentration of birds poses a major challenge in the NY-NJ area but birds aren’t the only creatures that give fits to pilots. In fact, birds account for only 95 percent of the "wildlife strikes" to aircraft. USDA’s wildlife management teams worry about everything from feral pigs to alligators, rabbits and dogs wandering onto runways. Last year, for example, coyotes on the runway at O’Hare caused two flights to abort landings: Check this out… And — if that’s not enough for you — this list of significant wildlife strikes notes several instances of deer being sucked into engines. More on that here… Fly safely…

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