Birds and air traffic

How strongly does air traffic disturb birds?


Noise impacts by aircrafts on humans are a much-discussed topic, while the consequences of air traffic on animals is poorly understood. The Swiss Ornithological Institute Sempach has therefore examined the potential for disturbance of air traffic on birds.


In a first step, we analysed 190 studies dealing with potential impacts of civil and military aircrafts.

In a second step, we experimentally investigated how waterbirds reacted to aircraft over-flights, under specific consideration of aircraft flight altitude.


The results should contribute to an improved protection of waterbird reserves, for example by specifying exclusion zones for low-altitude over-flights in sensitive areas along lake borders.


Strong escape reactions by ducks were evident, when flight altitudes of aircrafts were below 450 m above ground. Waterbirds more strongly reacted towards helicopters than airplanes. Suddenly appearing, noise emitting flying objects caused particularly strong disturbances.

Project management

Felix Liechti, Stefan Werner


Federal Office of Civil Aviation FOCA
Federal Office for the Environment FOEN


Komenda-Zehnder, S. & B. Bruderer (2002):
Einfluss des Flugverkehrs auf die Avifauna. Literaturstudie.