Date of this Version
Pfeiffer, M.B., B.F. Blackwell, and T.L. DeVault. 2018. Quantification of avian hazards to military aircraft and implications for wildlife management. PLoS ONE 13(11): e0206599. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206599
Collisions between birds and military aircraft are common and can have catastrophic effects. Knowledge of relative wildlife hazards to aircraft (the likelihood of aircraft damage when a species is struck) is needed before estimating wildlife strike risk (combined frequency and severity component) at military airfields. Despite annual reviews of wildlife strike trends with civil aviation since the 1990s, little is known about wildlife strike trends for military aircraft. We hypothesized that species relative hazard scores would correlate positively with aircraft type and avian body mass. Only strike records identified to species that occurred within the U.S. (n = 36,979) and involved United States Navy or United States Air Force aircraft were used to calculate relative hazard scores. The most hazardous species to military aircraft was the snow goose (Anser caerulescens), followed by the common loon (Gavia immer), and a tie between Canada goose (Branta canadensis) and black vulture (Coragyps atratus). We found an association between avian body mass and relative hazard score (r2 = 0.76) for all military airframes. In general, relative hazard scores per species were higher for military than civil airframes. An important consideration is that hazard scores can vary depending on aircraft type. We found that avian body mass affected the probability of damage differentially per airframe. In the development of an airfield wildlife management plan, and absent estimates of species strike risk, airport wildlife biologists should prioritize management of species with high relative hazard scores.