First record of white stork in a birdstrike in South Africa above 3,300 m AGL

Desire Lee Dalton, Marli De Bruyn, Monica Mwale, Kim Labuschagne, Melissa Hofmann, Albert Froneman, Hanneline A. Smit-Robinson, Antoinette Kotze

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Birdstrikes to aircrafts are increasing on an annual basis and pose significant
aviation safety risks. Identification of the birds involved is key to developing mitigation
strategies. Often the only information available to make identifications are feather and/or tissue
samples. Relying on feathers alone to identify the bird species requires special expertise
and access to museum collections for specimen comparisons. In 2017, feathers and tissue
samples were recovered from the engine cowling of an airplane that had just landed at the
Oliver Reginald (O. R.) Tambo international airport in South Africa after striking a bird at 3,353
m. To confirm the bird species, we sequenced a region of cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) for
the unknown sample and compared the results to the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) and
National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) GenBank databases. Comparisons to
these databases indicated that the species involved in the birdstrike incident was a white
stork (Ciconia ciconia; 99.6–100% similarity). This was the first known record of a white
stork involved in a birdstrike in South Africa and is important because it provided evidence
of a high-altitude birdstrike. Availability of publicly accessible DNA barcoding databases that
include all potential bird species from various geographic regions is a valuable tool in species
identification and can aid wildlife management strategies at airports to reduce the risks
associated with birdstrikes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-157
JournalHuman-Wildlife Interactions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2019


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