According to the New York Times: “The cause is still under investigation,” said Stephen Sigmund, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. But he said preliminary reports indicated that Flight 1549 was several miles out from La Guardia Airport, at 3,000 to 4,000 feet, when the pilot radioed that there had been a bird strike.”
Lots of praise has been heaped on the pilot for not losing a single passenger.
There has been some discussion in the mainstream media about the problem of geese getting in the way of aircraft and how populations of many bird species, particularly Canadian geese, have increased dramatically in recent years – but no congratulations for this achievement.
Just 100 years ago Canadian geese populations were in decline and one subspecies now common in the vicinity of New York, the Giant Canadian Goose (B. canadensis maxima), was thought extinct until as recently as 1962.
According to an MSNBC news interview with Richard A. Dolbeer, a retired ornithologist with the Department of Agriculture at the Wildlife Services in Sandusky, Ohio, “The key thing is that we’ve seen a remarkable increase in populations of many or most large birds — birds such as great blue heron, osprey, bald eagle, snow goose, Canada goose… These populations are increasing because we’ve done a really good job of wildlife conservation in North America for many species, because we’ve cleaned up the environment, gotten rid of DDT, enacted the Clean Water Act. All good things, but because of these, we’ve had incredible surges of many species that are hazardous to aviation.”
I suspect the increase in the goose population has more to do with controls on hunting, including season length and bag limits, rather than banning DDT and the Clean Water Act.
But whatever the cause(s) of the increase, there is reason for optimism. Indeed noone is disputing that there are now more birds in North America than there were 40 years ago with millions of bird from more than 350 species now passing through the New York region each year. The population of Canada geese in New York City and on Long Island alone is estimated to exceed 25,000.
The fact that a subspecies can be brought back from the brink of extinction to the extent that it is now so numerous it has become a nuisance is something to celebrate. Indeed it is yet another example of an environmental indicator showing improvement in the developed world.
Airports in New York, and other parts of North America, will no-doubt learn to better manage the increasing risk of bird strikes.
I wonder how many other large cities in the world have expanding, rather than contracting, bird populations.
Picture of the Canadian goose from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_Goose