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Question for people with expertise on birds; how high do the buggers fly? (renamed)

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Question for people with expertise on birds; how high do the buggers fly? (renamed)

Old 12th Apr 2010, 19:38
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Question 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???
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 19:47
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I've heard california condors can fly very, very high...into the flight levels.

not an expert on birds

I've even seen one of those Mickey mouse toy balloons (you know the kind, mickey's head inside another balloon) above 30,000 feet...the whole flight deck jumped when we spotted it.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 19:50
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can we expand the thread to comment on amazing things seen outside of the aircraft at height?
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 19:54
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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.[2] Studies have found that they breathe more efficiently under low oxygen conditions and are able to reduce heat loss.[3] The haemoglobin of their blood has a higher oxygen affinity than that of other geese.[4] 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[5]. 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.

Bar-headed Goose - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 19:54
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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!

I suppose this really belongs in 'Questions.'

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Old 12th Apr 2010, 19:55
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Flying a KingAir into Paris, Le Bourget about 11 am, opposite direction flock of birds (hundreds) circling at FL 110.

I blamed French ATC.


Flying an F4 in Germany (@ about 420 kts) caught five birds that went straight through the leading edges of both wings - titanium.

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Old 12th Apr 2010, 19:58
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AFAIK the highest ever confirmed birdstrike was at FL370 (a Rüppel's Vulture) off the coast of West Africa.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 20:08
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I gather a flock of migrating Whooper swans were seen at 29,000' over Northern Ireland - not as impressing as the vulture at FL370, but they are big birds and you wouldn't want to fly into one.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 20:58
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BTW, do they fly in clouds?
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 20:58
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I belted something big passing FL310 on descent once.
Blood and guts all down the side of the 737. Didnt think
a bird could survive with that little oxygen.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 21:11
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I belted something big passing FL310 on descent once.
Blood and guts all down the side of the 737. Didnt think
a bird could survive with that little oxygen.
Just like the Aztec's of Mexico and South America...you adapt to your surroundings.
Birds, the feathered winged variety, (not especially the mini-skirted female human types) do likewise.

The mini-skirted female types do as well...sorta.
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Old 12th Apr 2010, 22:29
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dare I mention the obvious but they ride the thermals when migrating so they can glide long distances
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Old 13th Apr 2010, 13:59
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BTW, do they fly in clouds?
Birding: Can birds fly in clouds?, artificial horizon, special senses
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Old 13th Apr 2010, 14:12
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Have seen Condors high up over the Andes, and some high-flying (normally aspirated) geese, but its those turbo-geese that worry me. FL330 sheesh!
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Old 13th Apr 2010, 21:13
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I was involved in an inspection of a 727 that had a birdstrike over the Persian Gulf at 23000ft in the dark - from the feathers wedged in a joint it appeared to be some sort of raptor.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 14:43
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Wacked what we think was a Canadian Goose at FL280 over the Gulf of Mexico a few years back. Nice dent on the starbd leading edge stainless and cleaned off a few vortex generators.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 16:05
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October 23, 1991 a DC8-62 hit a bird at 39,000 ft. from the FAA database.

Lots of strikes at higher altitudes. Take a look at the Transport Canada website and search for "Sharing the Skies". A great resource for the answers you need.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 19:00
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My personal experience was a flock of Canadian wild Geese flying in formation at FL240 over the Carolinas and these guys where flying in a and out of clouds for sure
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 23:34
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Bullzeye a pigeon at 3,000ft in IMC, was impaled in the air in take in the right leading edge, it was a bullzeye
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Old 16th Apr 2010, 20:11
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Sir George Cayley
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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.

Sir George Cayley

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