Question for people with expertise on birds; how high do the buggers fly? (renamed)
The other day we were climbing out during a leg along the Northeast corridor of the US, near NYC. At approximately 12000 ft AGL, we barely missed an opposite direction bird. I think it was a sea gull or pigeon. Leaning towards sea gull.
My previous highest bird I'd ever seen was a crow flying at 8000' AGL over the California desert.
I thought most birds stayed within 1000' AGL and that it is almost impossible to see a bird at 12000 ft. AGL. Is this correct?
I would think that even long range migratory birds like an albatross or geese stay within a few hundred feet of the surface.
After all, the higher a bird would fly, the more problems the bird would encounter (like an aeroplane), such as thin air to breathe, reduced lift on their wings and cold temperatures, etc.
Also, I've never been to high mountain ranges like the Andes or Himalayas...but are there birds at high altitudes in those places?
So, if there are any bird experts, biology majors, vet wannabees...please chime in.
Also, what is the highest, you've ever seen a bird???
No idea what this has to do with aviation rumors or news but I think migratory birds like geese go +20,000 feet. Just did a quick internet search and found the following.
The Bar-headed Goose is one of the world's highest flying birds, having been seen at up to 10,175 m (33,382 feet). It has a slightly larger wing area for its weight than other geese and it is believed this helps the goose to fly high. Studies have found that they breathe more efficiently under low oxygen conditions and are able to reduce heat loss. The haemoglobin of their blood has a higher oxygen affinity than that of other geese. The Bar-headed Goose migrates over the Himalayas to spend the winter in India, Assam, Northern Burma and the wetlands of Pakistan. It migrates up to Koonthankulam of Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu in the southern part of India. The winter habitat of the Bar-headed Goose is on cultivation where it feeds on barley, rice and wheat, and may damage crops. The bird can fly the 1000-mile migration route in just one day as it is able to fly in jet stream.
There have been occasional cases of birdstrikes at quite astonishing altitudes, generally geese. I have a vague memory of an Air 2000 Boeing 757, in the cruise, somewhere around Cyprus, hitting a goose. It would seem that they knew about jetstreams long before we did!
ID-ing any bird as it passes by is almost impossible. There's lots of big black birds so saying Crow is a long shot. Likewise the gull family is extensive so Sea Gull (a species not recognised in science) is an even longer shot.
Feathers have a unique pattern under the microscope, DNA technology for avians has progressed hugely, so samples can be identified with some certainty these days.
Bird radar scanning in the x- band has shown night activity previously not revealed. So, if you are unlucky enough to whack something at altitude, not squeamish and able to collect enough debris I recommend sending it to a lab for id. You could then at least know what hit you and maybe help advance understanding of the species behaviour.
I've heard the UK CAA are about to start a publicity campaign on just this subject, too.
Wow, I guess I have a new found respect for these guys, especially geese. Another pilot I was talking too said geese can dive pretty deep into water to fetch fish as well. Think about it... their body can go into water, generate enough lift from sea level to FL390, can handle temperature ranges from warm to approximately -50C (@ FL390), has lung capacity to breathe at FL390 and they have an advanced navigational system, etc.
It is clear that whoever designed these guys knew what they were doing!!!