U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Date of this Version
Human–Wildlife Interactions 5(2):224–234, Fall 2011
Collisions between birds and aircraft (bird strikes) pose safety risks to the public, cost airports and airlines money, and result in liability issues. Recent research suggests that aircraft visibility could be enhanced to increase detection and avoidance by birds. We questioned whether aircraft color scheme might play a role in bird-strike frequency. We used public records of bird strikes along with information on flights that were gathered by federal agencies in the United States. We estimated the bird-strike rates and compared them among airline companies using different fuselage color schemes, while controlling for aircraft type. Using an avian vision modeling approach, we first corroborated the hypothesis that brighter colors would contrast more against the sky than darker colors. We found differences in bird-strike rates among airline companies with different color schemes in 3 out of the 7 aircraft types investigated: Boeing 737, DC-9, and Embraer RJ145. With each of these aircraft, we found that brighter aircraft were associated with lower bird-strike rates. Brighter fuselages might increase the contrast between the aircraft and the sky and enhance detection and avoidance behavior by birds. Our findings are not conclusive but suggest a specific hypothesis and prediction about bird responses to aircraft with different color schemes that deserves empirical testing in the future.