Do birds fly in front of cars on purpose?

Since I started driving, I’ve noticed that birds tend to fly right in front of cars a few feet away from being hit. They could easily fly higher and avoid the car entirely - or wait till the car passes - but it looks like they’re choosing to fly in front of the car.

Given that birds are very social animals, has anyone ever studied the idea that birds do it on purpose to impress their friends? Something I’m curious about.

They don’t do on purpose. They just don’t recognize that something so large can actually move until it gets close enough to be seen as a threat. Something like that.

It’s all a bird version of “chicken”. The bird who gets closest to the car (without getting hit, obviously) wins.

Maybe it’s like people walking on railroad tracks. Or car drivers trying to make it across the tracks before the train hits. I don’t think the birds or the people are suicidal. If this doesn’t make sense, move along…

They’re playing Chicken.

Hey, somebody had to say it.

I don’t accept the ‘too big’ explanation - they can see the car coming. They seem to wait for the car to come, then swoop low right in front of the car instead of easily flying above it. It seems like they time it on purpose. Since birds are very social, and even playful animals, I thought it might’ve been some sort of challenge.

Maybe there is a reason for the challenge?

AFAIK many birds will try to challenge perceived threats to the nest, no matter how big the threat is. I wonder: are there lots of trees around the places you notice those diving birds?

Ether that or they’re trying to commit hairy canary :slight_smile:

The car going through the air creates air currents, incluing updrafts, that extend some ways from the car (that’s why you can feel the traffic going by if you stand next to a busy street). The birds are riding the air currents, just as people surf on ocean waves or dolphins ride the bow-waves in front of a ship. The air current gives the bird a boost, allowing it to fly with less effort.

Bird Hazing?

There was a Far Side cartoon that depicted a dog running and zig-zagging across a busy road. On the near side of the road were 2 more dogs. The one says to the other, “Ok…Rusty’s in the club!”.

Broomstick nailed it. You car creates updrafts which birds can take advantage of.

I think this is like asking, “Why are there always ants outside just where I’m about to step? Are they trying to get squashed?” I dunno about this updraft thing. You pay more attention to birds if they’re in front of your windshield, but there are birds everywhere, at all altitudes. I think this reflects what we notice more so than the complete reality.

Apologies to ski, who actually got to the chicken joke first. I didn’t read carefully enough.

It’s possible that Broomstick is also right, but I believe this is a more important explanation:

The best way to evade a predator/attacker that is faster than you is to cut close to it traveling perpendicular to its path. Squirrels do this too, and it is safe to assume that they are not doing it for the updraft.

Jawdirk may have something. As to CookingWithGas’ explanation, I doubt that. I’ve talked to several friends who also seem to notice it - they don’t fly across the street when they’re 50 yards ahead of you - they wait right until the last second and purposely swoop down in front of the car.

Not “too big”, SenorBeef. But not seen as a threat until they get close. I sure wish I could find some reference to that article I read. Searching turns up nothing but stories aboutsuicidal birds in India.
I’ll bet Cecil, the smartest human being, could find the truth.

I know this!

There are insects lying on the roadway all the time, many too small to be noticed as you’re whizzing by. (They like basking there, as they’re cold-blooded.) As you drive along, your car “spooks” them into leaping or flying into the air. The birds see them and swoop down for the easy snack, not really taking into account that your car is about to hit them.

(Sadly, I’ve hit birds that weren’t too good at the swoop. It was rather freaking seeing a little bird’s head sticking out of my grill the first time it happened.)

“little bird’s head”? Hey, in my neighborhood I’ve seen roadkill Canada geese. Now THAT’s a mess to clean off your car!

I’m sticking with my explanation for another reason: I fly small, slow airplanes. Birds will park themselves in front or to the sides of those, too. Just like geese fly in formation. And, just like the geese formations, the air currents give a boost to the bird taking advantage of all your hard work. The view of a bird doing this from the cockpit of a small plane is pretty much the same as from the front seat of your car. Airplanes, though, tend to fly at a steadier speed than cars are normally driven, which makes it easier for the bird to keep the same pace.

I’m not even going to get started on what happens if the bird (or human) screws up in this situation, though. Icky-poo.

Ah, yes. Skykill.