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Do birds fly in IMC?


joker
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On my drive home this evening after a day of going in and out of clouds a thought struck me. Has there been a reported case of a bird strike in IMC? In other words, can a bird fly in IMC. I had to laugh at the thought of a bird getting the leans and spiraling out of the sky to certain doom. Or even the picture of a bird slamming into a building because he was going at a speed way more than he could 'see and avoid'. Well if they do fly in clouds, how do they know where they are and which direction they are pointing. I wonder?

 

I have seen a bird settle. It was a gusty day, and the wind was all over the place. This seagull came into land and just then the wind shifted, leaving the seagull going too fast down wind. I could have sworn I saw the seagulls eyes open wide and a grimace as it knew that the outcome was not going to be pretty. Flapping its wings desperately, the poor thing tumbled and rolled to a halt. The funniest thing though was that it definitely looked round to see if anyone else saw. It looked at me in fits of laughter and sheepishly (or birdishly) flew off.

 

The last thing for my little departure from reality is this question. Did the first person who ever went into IMC worry that what looked like a soft fluffy 'fly-throughable' cloud ahead, might have been solid?! I still sometimes wonder that as I approach a cloud at 140kts!

 

Well, that's all.

 

Joker

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Never had a bird strike in IMC, but I was soaring one day in an L-23 and followed a hawk from about 2k right up to cloud base at 8K. That bird went right into the cloud base, then about 5 seconds later spiraled down past my ship with folded wings, out of sight. So maybe other birds fly IMC, but I would guess birds of prey don't....not intentionally anyway...

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Now, that's an interesting question which never occurred to me. Our house frequently is in clouds in the morning, and I've never noticed much in the way of bird activity when we're socked in.

 

Your comment about seeing a gull get slammed around in the wind reminds me of a lesson taught to me by a high time bush pilot. He made the point to always watch the birds. If they're getting slammed around above the tree tops, you will be too. How they fly gives you a good indication of wind direction -- if a bird does a 180 and his ground speed goes up, you know which was the wind is blowing. Hawks and vultures give a good picture of direction and speed of winds aloft if they're flying in circles.

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it really depends on the bird, ducks dont attemp IMC conditions because they quakk-up !

 

I suppose neither do seagulls, or else they'd be called 'Can't-See-gulls' instead. :P :( :D

 

C of G, g'day! How's things? Interesting, but I am still not convinced that it is normal for birds....maybe this bird was 'Inadvertant', like birddog's hawk. We need more evidence!

 

Both pilots were suprised

Not half as surprised as the bird was...for a split second! Did the PNF see whether the bird was all over the place (upside down and disorientated) or flying straight and level? This is crucial to my investigation.

 

Joker

 

P.S. I Don't like to hijack my own thread, but someone PM'd me and asked the very valid question, " What is IMC?" Just to share for anyone else who isn't totally sure (but too afraid to ask!), here is my deliberately simple reply!

 

Hi,

 

Good question....Read the stuff in blue two or three times. Make sure you understand that, before reading on.

 

IMC stands for Instrument Meterological Conditions. Basically it means in clouds or when you are flying without being able to see the horizon or ground. (There are more complicated 'offical' parameters to define whether or not you're in IMC or not.) Flying in IMC requires special equipment in your aircraft, special rules to follow and special training (the Instrument Rating).

 

The opposite is VMC - Visual Meterological Conditions. That is where you always can see around you and can see the ground. Most of your initial training will be in VMC.

 

There are two other terms that you'll hear. IFR and VFR. These are the names of the rules that you follow. Instrument Flight Rules or Visual Flight Rules. Of course VFR are more relaxed as the flying is easier.

 

Lastly, just to really complicated things, remember that you can be IFR, but VMC at the same time. But you never can be VFR and IMC at the same time.

 

To really complicated things totally, there is a certain time when it is almost IMC (but not quite). In these conditions most people should be following IFR. However, in special cases some aircraft are allowed to still be VFR. This is called Special VFR.

Hope this helps!!! It has probably just confused you even more!!

 

Joker

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Yes, birds fly in IMC, and at all hours of the night. I've hit them both places. Once at about 2AM we missed a goose by maybe 3 ft, as it went right beside the copilot's windshield. They can get caught in storms, and wind up way out over the ocean. I've seen hundreds of birds on an offshore platform after a storm. One peregrine falcon perched up on the flare, about 300 ft up, and made a good living off them for a couple of weeks. We would find feet & head lying on the deck, nothing else. When the birds were all eaten, he left.

 

One quibble. Lots of people have been IMC and VFR at the same time. It's not generally legal, but very possible. It is legal in uncontrolled airspace. Not smart, not conducive to long life, but it is certainly possible.

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Gomer,

 

Thanks...I think the overwhelming evidence is that birds do fly IMC...

 

So my next question is do they get disorientation. The only way we could test that is by strapping some instruments to the back of a bird (I suggest a swallow), and then recording the attitudes and speeds (like the FDR)!

 

As for the IMC-VFR bit, I was trying to make things simple for the guy, but you are right. Thanks.

 

Joker

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P.S. I Don't like to hijack my own thread, but someone PM'd me and asked the very valid question, " What is IMC?" Just to share for anyone else who isn't totally sure (but too afraid to ask!), here is my deliberately simple reply!

 

Yes and thanks again Joker! Between your answer, wikapedia, and 6 pack I understood IMC as well as a few MORE questions that your answer led me to ask myself!

 

I do want to thank many of you that actaully take time to answer questions for those of us on the low side of knowlege. It would be very easy to shrug us off and move on. Makes me all the more anxiouse to move forward!

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Would that be a common English swallow, or an African Grey swallow, that you suggest for the experiment?

What? I... I don't know that.

 

 

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

 

Nice one centurion, like it...like it!

 

 

Anyway, it would have to be an African Swallow as we all know that a European swallow couldn't possibly carry that. It's not a question of where he grips it, It's a simple matter of weight - ratios ... A five-ounce bird could not hold a a one pound instrument set. But the problem is that we know that African swallows are non-migratory! Two European swallows might be able to do the job if they carried the instruments on a line together...............................

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