Thousands of Birds Killed in New York since 2009 to Clear Path for Planes


As birds were blamed for bringing down a jetliner that landed on the Hudson River in 2009, around 70,000 birds have since been killed in New York in order to clear paths for planes. Bird strikes are common in order to ensure plane safety. Federal data shows an increase of shootings in the last few years, but it remains unclear whether this increase is statistically significant.

High Numbers

According to an Associated Press analysis of bird-killing programs at New York City’s three major airports, approximately 70,000 birds- including seagulls, starling, geese and others- have been killed since the incident. They were mostly either shot or trapped.

Laguardia and Newark airports have ramped up their bird-killing programmes since the incident in 2009, and according to federal data, bird killings involving those airports have been going up. The two airports combined, had an average of 158 strikes per year, in the five years prior to 2009. The average went up to 299 per year in the six years after it.

However, it is unclear whether these increases are statistically significant. These increases could be due to more diligent reporting, increases in bird populations. Further investigation is required in order to assess this. However, further investigation is also required as to whether these bird shooting programmes significantly enhance safety of planes.

Advocates for birds say officials should find other methods to keep paths for planes clear.


“There has to be a long-term solution that doesn’t rely so extensively on killing birds and also keeps us safe in the sky,” said Jeffrey Kramer, of the group GooseWatch NYC, suggesting better radar systems to detect problematic flocks.

“We do our best to reduce the risk as much as possible,” said Laura Francoeur, the chief wildlife biologist at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “There’s still a lot of random chance involved.”

“One must consider the consequences if this proven shooting program was discontinued and a serious bird strike occurred while the colony was still present,” Port Authority documents state.