Canada Geese: A Growing Threat to Airport Safety

May 18




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Canada geese, while beloved in North America, pose a significant threat to airport safety. Recent incidents have highlighted the dangers these birds present to civilian aviation, prompting authorities to take drastic measures. This article delves into the complexities of managing Canada geese populations near airports, the impact on aviation safety, and the ethical considerations surrounding wildlife control.


The Love-Hate Relationship with Canada Geese

North Americans have a long-standing tradition of valuing and protecting wildlife. However,Canada Geese: A Growing Threat to Airport Safety Articles the increasing population of Canada geese near urban areas, particularly airports, has led to a conflict between wildlife conservation and human safety.

The Hudson River Incident

One of the most notable incidents involving Canada geese occurred in January 2009, when US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. The collision resulted in a dual engine failure, forcing Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. Miraculously, all 155 passengers and crew survived, but the incident underscored the severe risks posed by bird strikes (source).

The Canada Goose: A Closer Look

Habitat and Behavior

Canada geese are large birds native to North America, often found near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and ponds. They are particularly attracted to urban parks and airports due to the availability of food and open spaces. These birds are not easily intimidated and can adapt to human presence, making them frequent visitors to populated areas.

Population Growth

The population of Canada geese has surged in recent decades. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the resident Canada goose population in the United States was estimated at over 3.6 million in 2019 (source). This growth has led to increased interactions with humans and heightened risks for aviation.

The Threat to Aviation

Bird Strikes: A Growing Concern

Bird strikes pose a significant threat to aviation safety. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported over 14,000 wildlife strikes in 2019 alone, with birds accounting for the majority of these incidents (source). Canada geese, due to their size and flocking behavior, are particularly dangerous.

Economic Impact

Bird strikes can cause substantial economic damage. The FAA estimates that wildlife strikes cost the aviation industry over $900 million annually in the United States (source). This includes costs related to aircraft repairs, flight delays, and cancellations.

Mitigation Measures

Lethal Control

In response to the growing threat, authorities have implemented various control measures. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has conducted culling operations to reduce the Canada goose population near airports. In 2019, approximately 14,000 Canada geese were culled in the United States (source).

Non-Lethal Alternatives

Animal rights activists and some government officials advocate for more humane methods of managing Canada geese populations. These include:

  • Habitat Modification: Altering the landscape to make it less attractive to geese.
  • Use of Dogs: Employing trained dogs to chase geese away from sensitive areas.
  • Egg Addling: Treating eggs to prevent hatching.

Ethical Considerations

The culling of Canada geese has sparked debate among conservationists, animal rights activists, and the general public. Critics argue that lethal control methods are inhumane and that alternative, non-lethal strategies should be prioritized. They also point out that reducing one species' population could inadvertently affect the ecosystem, potentially allowing other species to fill the void and create new problems.


Balancing the protection of wildlife with the need for human safety is a complex and ongoing challenge. While Canada geese are an integral part of North America's natural heritage, their growing population near airports poses significant risks to aviation. Authorities must continue to explore and implement effective, humane strategies to mitigate these risks while preserving the ecological balance.

Protecting the environment is a shared responsibility. As we navigate these challenges, it is crucial to consider both the safety of human activities and the well-being of wildlife.


  1. New York Times - Hudson River Landing
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Population Surveys
  3. Federal Aviation Administration - Wildlife Strikes
  4. USDA - 2018 Annual Report