October 20, 2014


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Birds are Beautiful, But ...

Written by Captain Ed in 2009:


There is a place I know of where our feathered friends are encouraged to gather in large quantities. They are provided for and coddled in every way imaginable. There is even a “temple” of sorts built there to their glory. It goes by the name of “Nature Center”, but a few minutes inside is all it takes to convince even the casually observant that it is a place of worship to glorify all things “natural” particularly those sporting feathers.

So, where is this paradise for our fellow citizens of the aviary sort? Why right where you would expect it to be, immediately under the approach path to one of our major airports.

Someone obviously decided long ago that it would be a good idea to keep all things that fly sort of grouped together so that they will feel better about themselves. Now, it may be noted that this someone (apparently someone of great importance to be able to make such an idea stick) missed a few pertinent facts about the differences between birds and airplanes; didn’t consider that one may not be good for the health of the other.

You folks flying the line out there know where this bird Mecca is. You are nodding your heads and smiling at the thought of how many times you have ducked behind the instrument panel on short final because of the sudden appearance of Daffey and his buddies merrily flapping down the ILS approach.

The sad thing is you are not all thinking of the same place. There is more than one of them.

The airport I have in mind is identifiable by the fact that the ATIS always has a notation I find most amusing and not really very helpful. “Caution, migratory water fowl in the vicinity of the airport,” is always there in the jumble of information pouring forth from the electronic wealth of timely knowledge.

I find this caution amusing for several reasons: One, do I really care that the birds I might encounter are migratory? Are they carrying little suitcases with their beachwear so that when I hit them I can expect to get sunscreen all over the windshield? The ATIS at most airports is already far too long, full of information I don’t need in a format that is sometimes barely decipherable due to abbreviations (Who decided to use BR to mean mist?). Why then do we need to spell out this business about birds on their way to Florida? Why not jus say, “Birds?”

Secondly, are they really migratory? This caution runs all year long. It’s late February, about ten degrees below zero out. I pull up the ATIS and learn that, lo and behold, the “migratory water fowl” are still in the vicinity. Should I assume these are the really stupid ones who got their calendars backwards? Are they still on their way to Florida, but will get there just in time for the temps to peak at about 105F?

Thirdly, what am I to do with this info? I don’t know about you guys, but I’m always cautious of birds at low altitudes whether I’m told about their family history and travel plans or not. And there is pitifully little I can do about them. Common sense would dictate that IF you see them, turn away and don’t try to go under them (they climb at about the rate of a fully loaded Metroliner on a hot day, so when frightened, they dive).

That’s about it. That’s all you can do.

So, while a certain element of our society continues to fight for the rights of our feathered friends to live blissfully in protected havens as close as possible to major airports, be prepared to duck behind the instrument panel from time to time.


Captain Ed, Author of "Your Captain Speaking"
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We're a small group of aviators with the mission of keeping this great profession and/or hobby light and fun. Often looking at the light side of aviation we specialize in pilot humor and aviation gifts...

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