A Farewell to Wings

During a recent debate about the proposed Thames Estuary Airport, (“Boris Island”*) a colleague presented me with a perfunctory rebuttal dredged from the Guardian website; not only would the airport have a detrimental effect on the environment, the location means that there would be an increased likelihood of collisions with birds, leading to plane crashes

Mission Control

When my counter-argument** was met with a geographically-ignorant hissy fit, I decided it was time to check out the original report. To be honest, I don’t know what all the worry is about.

The report reads:

…it was found that an aircraft loss would be expected every 102 – 297 years. The range for ten of the largest airports in the UK is between 304 – 1210 years, with a mean of 654 years. Thus, the risk posed by birds at the new airport is considered to be greater than most, if not all, major airports in the UK.

What’s the big fuss?

If we have to lose an aircraft to bird strikes once a century, does it really matter? With the airport primarily serving commercial traffic, we’d probably just end up with a couple of hundred fewer bland sybarites, who were just off to Marbella*** for a soulless fortnight of fried breakfasts, ill-advised coitus, and al fresco vomiting.

Besides, the heightened risk of bird strikes should highlight our dire need to improve aircraft technology. As it stands, the standard commercial jet has no better defence from bird attacks than the longboats of centuries past**** – which offered much more comfortable means of conveyance for short-haul reavings and could even handle expeditions to the Americas (the Vikings sensibly didn’t bother going to the Indies or any such other “dark continents”).

Admittedly retaining a team of longbowmen on every flight would not be cost-effective, but even the simplest adaptations, such as engine-mounted Gatling guns, an electrified pest control device, or a diversionary breadcrumb dispenser, could allow for adequate evasive action. This would lead to a marked reduction in risk, which would probably average out as just a couple of bereaved families per airport per year.

But that’s not the point. I feel that there is a deeper issue at stake in this debate, and I’ll put it as simply as possible.

It’s time for the birds to go.

If they want to fly into our engines, windows, church services, and wind turbines, I say let them. Birds are essentially an obsolete biological classification. Back when they were dinosaurs, birds had the run of this planet, but those days are gone.

Simpler times

Birds see humans in charge and impotently respond by lazing around in parks, defecating with pre-meditated accuracy, engaging in public sex acts, and making annoying squawking noises at all hours of the day and night. Rather than waiting for them to self-immolate through idiotic reactions to human technology*****, I say we take a more assertive approach.

It won’t be easy however, so I would like to offer a brief rundown of tactical approaches to eliminating some of the key figures in the impending cleansing of our skies (and ponds):


Crows, ravens, jackdaws, magpies, choughs, the corvids are arguably – and argued by me****** to be – our biggest threat. The corvid is a mighty adversary combining immense intelligence with the ability to use and even make tools, as well as a surprising eagerness to peck out the eyes of infant mammals.They are not to be taken lightly and have a history of using human technology to their own ends.

We could possibly consider some sort of short-lived alliance with the corvids against the other birds and then leave them to their own sphere of influence post-war. However, I would first recommend we try to use the corvids’ intelligence against them. We should distract their leaders with a series of tantalisingly difficult riddles and puzzles, and then, when they’re distracted, blow up the room where the experiments are taking place. Or just poison the instruments or something.


The ludicrous regal protection afforded to mute swans in the United Kingdom, regular smutty incursions into Celtic and classical mythology, and their alleged ability to “break a man’s arm”, have all contributed to wrongheaded reverence of swans. They’re easy to kill. Get a swan out of the water and walking on land and its grace is instantly dissipated, along with any lingering admiration of their beauty and poise. A club of around 30 inches in length should be sufficient to smash a swan’s head in without risking (likely apocryphal) damage to one’s limbs.


Violent, noisy, fond of ridiculous head gear and barely-consensual rear-entry sex, coots are essentially the Dothraki of the bird world. Like the Dothraki*******, it is indiscipline and in-fighting which will be the downfall of the coots. Although they are undoubtedly the most pugnacious of the water fowl, coots lack the regimentation to enact an effective siege strategy. Humans need only stay inside shouting taunts and the feathery-footed slapheads will probably smash their own brains out against our pebbledash in a vain attempt to get at us.

I doubt this dispute was over the relative merits of iambic and dactylic pentameter


If coots are the Dothraki, then migratory geese would most definitely be the Unsullied of the bird brigade. Regimented and obedient, the inherent military discipline of the goose is (almost) a thing to be admired. However, as the war of 1914-1918 showed, predictable formation attacks are no match for the sky-blackening onslaught of machine-gunned lead. If we could find an effective way of recreating the atmosphere of the Great War by deploying floating mines and giving the sky the texture of limb soup, then the best and brightest of the goose forward lines would have as much chance as an asthmatic 15-year-old in a Flanders field.

A pretty easy start


With their mooching gait, spiky hair, transient nature, and fondness for eating frogs, the grey heron mirrors the sullen demeanour of a French exchange student. And like French exchange students, herons can easily be dispatched by wrapping a hockey stick round their stupid spindly legs.


Mallards we need not worry about. Their bizarre sexual proclivities are evolutionarily subnormal, so natural wastage as a result of the gay gene will likely see them die out in good time. However, it would be useful propaganda to allow those most perverted birds to remain for a few generations as a symbol of the rectitude of our cause. All other ducks could probably just be dealt with using bread soaked in strychnine.

I could go on, but feel that my purpose has been served at this point by simply provoking debate, and more importantly the ire of the RSPB. When the inevitable court case is brought by those spineless orni-pologists, I will finally receive the sympathetic platform denied me at the Lockheed Martin AGM.



* Why the man would want to provide an eponym for a transport hub when he could so easily give it to a prison or missile facility, is beyond me.

** It would be easier to get to than Stanstead.

*** Which they would likely pronounce with a hard “l”.

**** Admittedly an Airbus A380 is better protected from krakens, leviathan, and sea-nymphs, but only for as long as it remains in the air.

***** Glass windows have been around since the Romans – catch up.

Sorry, I thought you were supposed to be “wise”


****** In my still unpublished Sci-Fantasy-Theologi-Fi epic set on a wooden planet, Grimla’ath: Hero of Men, the hero, Grimla’ath: Hero of Men, faces an army of embittered indigenous birds, led by a sadistic corvid junta, working in cahoots with a sentient robot factory to overthrow Grimla’ath: Hero of Men’s religious order, who had the sense to put down some buildings and raise a few fences to show what belonged to them.

******* If my coots = Dothraki theory holds up, another eradication option becomes available to us. We could place particularly hefty religious idols around public parks and the coots would drown attempting to drag them back to their nests for desecration.