Vehicle Bird Strikes!

To: "" <>
Subject: Vehicle Bird Strikes!
From: Pat and Ian May <>
Date: Sun, 22 Oct 2000 21:03:14 +0930
Dear Birders

The recent road kill discussions has prompted me to offer these
observations about bird collisions with vehicles for what they are
worth.   From experience with a number and variety of vehicles, I think
one major cause is dark vehicle colour and to a lesser degree, the
relative quietness of the vehicle. 

We lived in the outback of SA from 1971 and for more than 15 years, we
had only white, cream or light grey coloured 4WD utility vehicles.  
Although frequently driven at speeds exceeding 100 kph, bird collisions
were uncommon.  Kangaroos and emus were sometimes a problem,
particularly during periods of irruption following wet and sometimes in
drought years.

In the mid 1980's the bitumen road to Lyndhurst SA, at the southern end
of the Strzelecki Track was completed.   This was our first opportunity
to have a real 2WD car so we bought one of our favourite metallic blue
colour.  At that time my work place also acquired two Ford Falcon cars
(one metallic green and one blue) where previously only white 4WD
utility type vehicles had been used.

Anyway from the time we started using darker coloured cars, bird strikes
became a problem even when driving on dirt roads.  At times the cars
were driven at faster speeds which no doubt contributed to the problem,
but usually the speeds were no different to the 4WDs.  I often
contemplated whether it was the noisy 4WDs that helped to frighten off
the birds, but in 1989 we obtained a white Ford Falcon Station wagon and
bird collisions with that car reduced dramatically.   It was a rare
event to hit a bird whether driving faster on bitumen or on dirt with
the white vehicle, but meanwhile the two dark metallic coloured cars
being used in a similar manner kept striking birds at an alarming rate. 
It occurred to me then that most vehicles we used in the past had been
light in colour when bird strikes were rare but from the time we began
using dark coloured cars, bird strikes were prevalent.

After that we tried driving the coloured cars with lights on during
daylight but this did not seem to make much difference.   Eventually the
work fleet was replaced with white vehicles and bird strikes became an
uncommon event again.  On one occasion after that, we needed to hire a
4WD station wagon and the vehicle provided was a dark blue model and
immediately with this vehicle, even though it was noisy on the road,
bird strikes became a major problem again.   Although these observations
are not conclusive and there are probably other complicating factors, I
believe dark vehicle colours are the main contributor to the bird road
toll, particularly on bitumen roads.

Perhaps this would make a worthy research subject and if pursued
carefully may attract some car manufacturer support.  If observations
such as this can be proved to be significant, it should not be too
difficult to persuade major fleet owners, particularly Govt. and
responsible corporate bodies to acquire white or light coloured


Ian May
PO Box 666
Enfield Plaza SA 5085
Tel/fax:        (08) 8182 5858
Mobile:         0409 474 575

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