Chemical analysis of feathers has confirmed that the birds that caused US Airways Flight 1549 to crash-land in the Hudson River in New York were migratory Canada geese, researchers from the Smithsonian Institution reported Monday.
The Airbus 320 collided Jan. 15 with a flock of birds about 2,900 feet above the ground about 5 miles from LaGuardia Airport, where it had taken off.
Both engines were damaged, but Capt. Chesley Sullenberger III managed to land the plane in the river with only minor injuries to some of the 155 people on board.
Samples of bird feathers and tissue were sent to the Feather Identification Laboratory at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, which routinely identifies birds involved in aircraft collisions.
About 7,400 such bird strikes are reported to the Federal Aviation Administration each year, but the real number is far higher: The FAA estimates that only 20 percent are ever reported. Bird strikes have destroyed 210 aircraft and caused 229 deaths since 1988.
The analysis showed that the birds were Canadian migratory geese that bred in Labrador. They may have been wintering in the New York area. "Knowing that the birds were migratory is crucial to developing management strategies," said ornithologist Peter P. Marra of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.