Bird strikes have been one of my passing interests ever since I watched the head-on confrontation between a seagull and A landing A-6 during a wheels’ watch at NAS Alameda in the early 1970s. (The seagull lost, by the way.) Somewhere over the years the experts who study and do their best to prevent bird strikes started using that unusual word in the headline.
“Snarge” is the term given the visceral remains of a bird strike and, it seems to be specific to aviation. According to World Wide Words, a 2003 article in Flying Safety attributed its creation to the Smithsonian Feather Identification Lab, which does all the CSI work, including DNA identification, to identify species involved in the strike. The lab said it got “snarge” from the experts who prepared the bird specimens.
Identifying the species involved is the first step in preventing the problem, says a new and really informative video from the US Department of Agriculture, Strike, Snarge, and Safety: Your Guide to Wildlife Strike Reporting. The USDA’s Wildlife Service maintains the bird strike database for the FAA. Without knowing the species involved, the experts cannot modify habitats and employ other means of dispersal.
The video dedicates much of its 12 minutes to the step-by-step collection of remains (pluck, don’t cut feathers, the down matters) and snarge (use alcohol and clean cloths and swabs, not cleaning sprays, which do bad things to DNA) and how to send it the Smithsonian bird strike investigators (BSI) at the feather lab. It even itemizes a collection kit from gloves to swabs to resealable plastic bags, and recommends creating it before it’s needed.
Uniting the various video components is the need to report every bird strike no matter where it happens, because they occur at airports large and small and with a control tower and without. Regulations require military pilots to report every strike, civilian requirements stop at “pretty please!” In an average year, bird strikes cost aviation $1 billion, so every aviator should watch the birdy, and submit the snarge and other remains when one plays chicken with an airplane and loses. –Scott