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University of Florida IFAS Extension

Bird Attacks1

Patricia Sprott and Frank J. Mazzotti2

Although not a common occurrence, some of Florida's birds are known to occasionally subject humans, pets, wildlife and other birds to seemingly unprovoked aggression. These attacks, though usually short-lived and inconsequential, do raise several questions, and this article will try shed some light on the issue.


Bird attacks usually consist of swoops, dives and chases by common yard birds, such as mockingbirds, blackbirds and bluejays; attacks at the beach or near the nesting grounds of least terns and gulls; in playing fields by burrowing owls' or near forested areas by raptors. Other forms of attacks include vocal castigations from perching birds; "mobbing" or ganging-up on the victim, which crows may do; or intentional defecation or regurgitation on the victim, which may occur in areas of concentration, such as rookeries.


In the spring and summer birds establish territories, build nests and rear young. During this period, birds may engage in belligerent behavior, such as attacking creatures and humans many times larger than themselves. In this case, the birds are simply trying to protect their homes, their mates or their young.

Other birds, such as ducks and geese found around suburban water impoundments or gulls and pelicans found near fishing piers, become accustomed to being fed by humans and lose their natural fears. When a human appears at the spot where they usually are fed, they expect food and may approach without caution, which may look like an attack to an unsuspecting person. Some of these birds become quite aggressive in their begging methods and may actually chase, hiss and peck at the hapless human. This "conditioned response" technique was used to train the gulls and crows to chase the actors in the Hitchcock thriller "The Birds." Attacks may also originate out of fear, or if the bird is startled in some way by a passerby, but most attacks are motivated by defense of territory or young.


Many species of birds will attack humans to various degrees when threatened or molested. In South Florida, birds most likely to attack humans or pets for coming too close to a nest are mockingbirds, least terns, burrowing owls, nighthawks, crows, bluejays, and domestic waterfowl (muscovy ducks, swans, geese). Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been noted to buzz people wearing red. Pigeons, doves and woodpeckers may look like they are attacking humans, when actually they are returning to their nests in the eaves of buildings.


If threatened, a bird will attack anyone or any- thing adults, children, pets, other wildlife including other birds, even buildings with windows that reflect the bird's image.


First, try to decide what provoked the attack--

Are you close to a nest?Note the exact location of the attack or the nest, and avoid the area for the duration of the nesting season and advise children and visitors to do the same. Hatchlings are usually fledged in two to three weeks and when the young are completely on their own, the parents will stop attacking.

Is there a baby bird around?Birds have strong parental instincts and will continue to defend their young for a few days after they have left the nest. If a young bird is found hopping around the yard, it is probably still under the care and feeding of the parents and should be left alone or placed low in a bush.

Is the bird sick or injured?If you find a sick or injured bird, be extremely cautious when approaching or handling. Beaks and claws are formidable weapons and will be used against you. Approach smaller birds from the rear, cupping gently in both hands. For larger birds, use a piece of cloth such as a towel or a shirt to drape over the bird before picking it up. Very large birds such as herons, osprey, ducks, geese and anhingas should be left alone. Call a wildlife agent or the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission for assistance.

These are the most likely causes for attacks, and the only defense is avoidance. This behavior, however annoying or disruptive, is only temporary and is a small price to pay for enjoying the benefits of South Florida's wildlife.


Bichard, John May. A Natural History of American Birds. 1955: New York; Bramhall House.


1. This document is SS-WIS-47, part of a series published by the Cooperative Urban Wildlife Program, a cooperative effort between the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida and the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission's Nongame Wildlife Program. Original publication date June 1991. Reviewed April 2003. Visit the EDIS Web Site at

2. Patricia Sprott, wildlife information specialist, Wildlife and Range Sciences Department; Frank J. Mazzotti, urban wildlife extension scientist; Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension service.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean.

Copyright Information

This document is copyrighted by the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) for the people of the State of Florida. UF/IFAS retains all rights under all conventions, but permits free reproduction by all agents and offices of the Cooperative Extension Service and the people of the State of Florida. Permission is granted to others to use these materials in part or in full for educational purposes, provided that full credit is given to the UF/IFAS, citing the publication, its source, and date of publication.

Close encounters of the fluttering kind: a rise in bird attacks

By Patrik Jonsson, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

June 10, 2005

RALEIGH, N.C. - US Postal carrier Keith Cooper is used to dogs sneering from behind metal gates. He's used to uncivil people who expect to find something in their mailbox and then don't.

But this week, as he trundled across Boylan Heights in this Southern city, he ran into a new problem: rambunctious birds. "I was ducking this way, then ducking that way, trying to get away," Mr. Cooper says, recalling a few frenzied seconds where beaks flashed like tiny daggers. "I had no idea what was going on."

It turned out to be an entire Tippi Hedron day. He wasn't divebombed just once, but three times in three different parts of the city.

Nor is Cooper the only one seemingly in the flight path of B-52 birds these days. For some inexplicable reason, from Houston to Washington, it's been the year of aggressive mockingbirds, crows, hawks, and even woodpeckers.

To a noticeable degree, especially by those getting strafed, it seems like Alfred Hitchcock, the reality series.

Some of the incidents are, admittedly, a bit scary. One Houston lawyer this spring found himself getting pecked in the face. Even worse, police had to close down an entire downtown Houston street in late May after gang of grackles attacked pedestrians, knocking some of them down.

"Birds, they're on the sidewalk, but they're usually not attacking people," says Bea McCann of the Houston Police Department. She notes that the recent attacks were the first she's ever heard of in the city.

In Washington, bloggers last week were busy cataloguing the adventures of an aggressive hawk that was buzzing cars.

In upstate New York, a high-strung woodpecker has destroyed dozens of car mirrors - angered, apparently, by his own image and racking up insurance premiums.

"There's been an increase in the number of times that people report incidents like, 'I had this weird thing happen where a bird attacked me,' " says Alicia Craig, director of the Bird Conservation Alliance in Indianapolis.

Why you should look up

As it turns out, experts do have an explanation for the increase in bird-man encounters. The spread of wood-shaded and bird-friendly suburbs has added to friction between the two species during nesting season.

For a few weeks in early summer, when eggs crack open and open-mouthed fledglings chirp and caw toward the sky, parent birds go on the offensive.

"We're seeing more and more inevitable clashes due to a lack of space," says Ms. Craig.

But certain species are definitely more Red Baronesque than others. Mockingbirds, crows, bluejays, Arctic terns, and even seagulls are known to divebomb.

And, more often than not, they have good reason to feel secure in their missions: Humans usually duck and run when ambushed by birds.

Since bird attacks are more of a novelty than a danger, no official tallies are kept of such confrontations. But ornithologists say that suburban nesting is certainly on the upswing. Indeed, some species prefer what may seem like inconvenient, even illogical, places to nest, close to human activity.

Moreover, though it may be of no comfort to people like Cooper, birds have good reason to be aggressive. While a mockingbird in the country may raise its children in relative peace, an urban mockingbird has to protect the brood from a host of dangers - from cats to redtailed hawks to curious humans.

"Last time I had mockingbird nests in my backyard, I had to hold an umbrella over my head to go to the mailbox, I was so afraid of attack," says Craig.

Birds in mythology

Birds, of course, are both romanticized and reviled in mythology and popular culture, from their tiny singsong chirps and eager pecking of crumbs in "Mary Poppins" to their flapping hordes in Hitchcock's film.

Mythology is full of them. And humans confront their beauty - or their unsavory parting gifts - in one way or another almost every day.

It's not surprising then, that they've been frequent, even complex, characters in literature and film. Director Mel Gibson, for one, used vultures to disturbing effect as they crowded around Jesus on the Cross in "The Passion of the Christ."

To be sure, the significance of an attacking bird has deep folkloric roots.

Some cultures see birds as souls occupying the liminal space between heaven and earth. Others consider them harbingers - often of doom.

"To Taoists, for example, birds indicate the violent uncontrollable primordial willfulness of the 'barbarians,' " says William Doty, a religion professor at the University of Alabama and the editor of Mythosphere magazine.

To Cooper, the point isn't something philosophical about the barbarians. It's just a matter of delivering the mail free of danger or ... doo-doo.

He vows that neither snow, nor sleet, nor songbird will keep him from his appointed duty. And he's developed his own pragmatic way to deal with any threats from above, through experience.

"My advice if you're attacked is, just take a step back and move slowly away," he says.

Page last updated at 18:36 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Bird-hit jet in emergency landing

Rome's Ciampino airport has been closed to flights after a Ryanair plane from Frankfurt suffered "substantial damage" as it made an emergency landing.

The budget airline said the plane had experienced problems after birds were sucked into the engine as it came in to land at Rome's second-largest airport.


At least 219 people have been killed worldwide since 1988 as a result of wildlife strikes to aircraft, according to the organisation Bird Strike Committee USA.

A US Federal Aviation Administration study has found that between 1990 and 2007, more than 82,000 wildlife strikes were reported at more than 1600 American airports.

The phenomenon causes billions of dollars of damage to aircraft worldwide.

Tale of miraculous airline escape

Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

By Heather Alexander

BBC News, New York

It was a jaw-dropping sight for the workers in Manhattan's west side office blocks to see a US Airways passenger plane glide down into the Hudson River.

The 70-tonne airbus 320 appeared to land on the river as if it was a runway, bouncing slightly off the water in a huge splash before settling submerged up to the windows.


Just minutes after take off, they saw flames streaming from the engines.

One passenger said the cabin started smelling of gasoline, and a couple of minutes later the pilot said they should brace for a hard impact. Everyone started saying prayers.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the pilot for successfully steering his aircraft over the city's skyscrapers where an impact could have been devastating.

He did "a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure that everybody got out," Mr Bloomberg said.

"He walked the plane twice after everybody else was off and tried to verify that there was nobody else on board."

The word in the city is that the plane hit a flock of birds after it left LaGuardia airport.


●Large passenger jets can withstand being hit by a 4lb (1.8kg) bird, but problems can arise with flocks of small birds, or with larger birds

●219 people have been killed worldwide as a result of wildlife strikes since 1988

●In 2007, over 7,600 birds and other wildlife were reported to have hit civil aircraft in the US

●Bird strikes cause $600m damage to aircraft in the US every year

Source: Bird Strike Committee USA

There is alarm that something as common as that could cause both engines of a plane to fail.

The Federal Aviation Administration said there were about 65,000 bird strikes between 1990 and 2005 - one in 10,000 flights.

Retired Delta Airlines pilot Joe Mazzone says: ''They literally just choke out the engine and it quits.''

He said air traffic control towers routinely alert pilots if there are birds in the area.

The FAA has confirmed it received eyewitness reports that a bird strike caused the crash, but US Airways says it will not speculate until it has carried out a full investigation.

Bison / Buffaloes

Sunday 22 March 2009

UGANDA: IDPs sue wildlife authority over crop, property damage

AMURU, 29 December 2008 (IRIN) - Hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Uganda have sued the country's wildlife authority, demanding 2.8 billion shillings (US$1.4m) for damage to their crops and other property by elephants and buffaloes straying out of a national park in the region.

“We, the affected communities from the villages of Alero, Koch-Goma and Amuru have decided to seek compensation through the courts," Bernard Oryema from Koch-Goma, one of the claimants, told IRIN.

The 1,008 claimants from Alero, Koch-Goma and Amuru sub-counties are demanding special damages against the Uganda Wild Life Authority for violation of their right to life, right to property and livelihoods by the marauding beasts.

"We lost a lot over the course of the two-decade LRA [Lord's Resistance Army] conflict and now our properties are being destroyed by wild animals - animals from a national park that government should have controlled not to stray into villages where IDPs are returning," Oryema said. "We are scared because in the coming year, IDPs resettling in these affected areas will experience famine because all our crops have been eaten up by the animals."

The wild animals have destroyed bananas, maize, beans, millet, potatoes, rice, sesame, groundnuts sorghum and yams that the IDPs had planted.

In November, one of the returning IDPs set ablaze his hut as he tried to scare away herds of elephants that were approaching his home in Koch-Goma village.

Amuru local leader Gilbert Olanya told IRIN local people had lost faith in the Uganda Wild Life Authority for failing to control wild animals straying out of the game park.

“The law does not allow killing of wild animals so they want the court to help them on this issue”, he added.

Edward Asalu, the Murchison Falls National Park senior conservation officer, said the authority had not received any notification of the IDP suit.

"We are doing our best to control these animals, a number of them have been driven back to the national park, he said.

The IDPs have sought the help of a legal firm based in Kampala which has already served notice on the attorney-general, copied to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, giving the government and the wildlife body 60 days to respond. The notice was made available to IRIN by IDP representatives.

22 March 2010

Wild bison kills villagers in West Bengal

A wild bison strayed out of its habitat and went on the rampage in a village in West Bengal killing one man and injuring six others.

The creature walked into Dalsingpara village in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal state on Sunday (March 21).

A male resident was standing outside his house when the animal rushed in and gored him to death on the spot.

The six other villagers who were also injured were rushed to the nearby hospital and are undergoing treatment for serious injuries.


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