Editor’s note: Thanks to Ron Klutts, who snapped this photo just for this blog. Follow Ron on Twitter (@Captain_Ron).
If you see a bird hanging out on the empennage of an airplane, I have news for you: She’s not admiring the scenery. She is looking for a nesting place. She may have already found one–inside the airplane she’s perched on.
It’s getting to be that time of year when birds go from being a lesson in ground school to a practical, hands-on exercise in good preflighting. Birds can and do nest in airplanes. They nest in airplanes that are sitting outside; they nest in airplanes inside hangars. They will nest in the tailcone and the engine compartment and probably would slip inside an open window and make themselves at home in the cockpit if given the opportunity. And all it takes is an opening the size of a quarter or so. As these Bird hazard photos from the Air Safety Institute show, even cowl plugs can prove ineffective.
And they are super-fast at what they do. As Steve Ells reported in AOPA’s Reporting Points blog, he parked his airplane in his hangar and came back 10 days later to find a complete nest and four eggs on top of the engine’s number 1 and number 3 cylinders. (Click the link to see a photo.)
I see barn swallows every year. If I have a decorative wreath on my front door, they will nest in it. Mind you, this is a door that sees a lot of activity–we go in and out of it several times a day.
Another article from the Air Safety Institute explains why some birds build their nests in what you’d think would be dangerous locations. “Birds don’t associate nest removal with predation,” an expert says. “Nesting materials will naturally drop, so they’re used to seeing some disappear.” When a nest with eggs or baby birds is removed, it finally sinks in that this could be a bad neighborhood.
Perhaps the best thing to do is to assume that a bird has built a nest in your trainer every single time you head out to the ramp or hangar. Then prove otherwise.—Jill W. Tallman