Bird Strike Committee Proceedings


Date of this Version

October 2002


The word(s) “bird strike”, “bird-strike”, or “birdstrike” has been used inconsistently throughout the literature for as long as birds have been colliding with aircraft. A recent search of peer-reviewed articles in the Zoological Record and Biological Abstracts dating back to 1969 resulted in 52 articles that pertained to bird-aircraft collisions. Of those, 67% used two words (bird strike); 22% used a hyphenated word (bird-strike); 5.5% used one word (birdstrike), and 5.5% actually used both two words and the hyphenated version in the same paper! A brief glance through the proceedings and abstracts of recent Bird Strike Committee Meetings also exemplifies the inconsistent use of the word(s) that we apply to our profession.

The Oxford English Dictionary (1989) lists bird-strike as a hyphenated word under section (9) Special comb[inations]... of the word bird. However, they go on to cite references of the first published versions of this word in newspaper articles which quoted it as one word ‘birdstrike’ (Daily Telegraph, 19 June 1963; Idle Moments, 15 Oct. 1967). For this discrepancy, we turned to the scientific literature. According to the rules of scientific nomenclature (The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature [1964] Article 23 - Law of Priority)…“The valid name of a taxon is the oldest available name applied to it…[published]” Although this rule was established to settle differences in the proper naming of species and not inventing words for the English language, it is referenced here because interviews with a linguist (Dr. Suzanne Kemmer, Rice University, personnel communication) revealed that there are no English rules for creating compound words. However, the normal evolution of a new word is generally from two words - to a hyphenated word - to one word, depending on the frequency of use. Therefore, even if we dismiss the scientific rules of “The Code”, the term for bird-aircraft collisions has been in use since at least the early 1960s. This year marks the 12th annual meeting of Bird Strike Committee USA. It is time that we begin consistent use of BIRDSTRIKE as one word in published articles and recommend a change in the Air Force Pamphlet 91-212 (1 April 1997 – Safety) to reflect the modern day, modern-day, or modern day use of the word.