Implementing a Bird Imitator

Preamble: Improbable has attempted to make contact with the Ukrainian Podgorny Institute in order to obtain a photo of their rubbery ‘Bird Imitator’, but, sadly, our efforts failed – so in lieu we have used a relatively non-representative picture of a latex chicken.

Rubber_ChickenBird Strikes are a considerable hazard for aircraft – see, for example, the alarming 2009 case of US Airways Flight 1549 which was forced to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River in New York after running into a flock of Canada Geese. Unfortunately, efforts to empirically test aircraft components in the lab (by launching birds at them at very high speed) are hampered by ethical and hygiene concerns. Prompting a team of researchers at the Department for Strength and Optimisation of Constructions at the A.N. Podgorny Institute for Mechanical Engineering Problems, National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine, to devise and implement their ‘Bird Imitator’ – profiled here (para.3)

“The technology of making a bird imitator for testing structural optics products for bird impact resistivity.

A bird imitator is being developed for testing aircraft structural optics elements for bird impact resistivity. In contrast to existing analogs, the imitator meets sanitary and hygiene requirements, industrial design regulations, is easy to make and requires no special conditions for prolonged storage.”

Clarification: [1] The structural optic products and elements referred to are, most likely, ‘windows’.

The Institute’s ‘Bird Imitator’ (a.k.a. ‘Bird Dummy’) was also mentioned in a 2013 paper for the Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 817-826. ‘Bird Dummy for Investigating the Bird-Strike Resistance of Aircraft Components

“This paper deals with making a bird dummy for testing the bird-strike resistance of aircraft components. A new bird dummy has been offered. It differs from existing analogs by reproducing the impact impulse with high accuracy. Besides, it is easy to make, store, and clean up its fragments after tests. The bird dummy is made of silicon [sic] that models the bird’s muscular tissue. It also has plastic ball fillers for modeling the skeleton and the cavities inside the bird. The results of comparative experimental research in strain occurring in a steel target plate and the elements of aircraft transparencies, as well as the damages of an aircraft vertical stabilizer during impact with the dummy and a real bird, are given. Data are presented for different impact angles and velocities. Comparative experiments have shown that using the dummy offered for testing the bird-strike resistance of aircraft components is a viable option.”

Clarification: [2] ‘Silicon’ – the brittle semiconducting element mentioned above, should probably instead read ‘Silicone’ – the soft rubbery polymer.


[1] The technical term for the waste material produced after a bird has interacted with an aircraft in a mutually destructive way, e.g. it’s been through an operational jet turbine – is ‘Snarge‘.

[2] The Smithsonian Institution Feather Identification Lab investigates characterises and catalogues snarge – it’s program manager is Dr. Dove.

[3] The rubber chicken pictured above is available for purchase (£9.19 plus taxes/delivery as appropriate) from the UK-based firm The Joke Shop.