April 9, 2015
Central Ornithology Publication Office
A new study may have important implications for reducing bird-aircraft collisions through the customization of aircraft and runway lights to birds' visual systems. Birds' eyes are different from human eyes in several key ways, and researchers determined that blue light would be most conspicuous to the Brown-headed Cowbirds used in their study. Outfitting a remote-controlled model airplane with lights in this color, they tested how the captive flock reacted to continuous versus pulsing lights and to a stationary versus approaching aircraft. When the aircraft was stationary, cowbirds became alert more quickly when the lights were on than when they were off. When the aircraft approached the birds with lights off, their response times slowed as the aircraft's speed increased, but lights helped mitigate this effect.