1792: Bird/Plane/Superman

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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You can apply special translucent films to your windows to help keep birds/Superman from accidentally flying into them.
Title text: You can apply special translucent films to your windows to help keep birds/Superman from accidentally flying into them.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: title text
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This comic is a logical comparison of observations to resolve the classic comic book trope of: "Look, up in the sky... It's a bird!... It's a plane!... It's Superman!" Taking the random citizens' declarations at face value -- a quite exaggerated position -- this comic aims to help such clueless folks identify the airborne object.

The observations compared range from the mundane to the bizarre.


  • Some birds are capable of carrying a small human, but this happens extremely rarely (although hoax stories are often reported). Most planes are created specifically designed to carry human passengers, although many are cargo planes with humans only acting as crew, and autonomous drones without humans also exist. Superman, a comic book character created in 1933, is an alien with superpowers, including the power of unaided flight. He often carries other people with him, such as girlfriends or rescued victims of various villains.
  • Birds evolved from dinosaurs, appearing as early as the Late Jurassic period, roughly 150 million years ago. The first successful flight of a powered heavier-than-air craft took place on December 17, 1903. Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, published on April 18, 1938.
  • Birds kill several billion birds a year, often - but not always - eating them. There are no records of a bird successfully catching and eating either a plane or Superman.
  • Mid-air sex involving planes is usually involving passengers (and potentially air crew), not the plane itself. However, this may be referring to in-flight refueling, or this incident where one plane landed atop another in mid-air: http://avstop.com/news/plantcity.html
  • Some planes may be able to intentionally purge their septic tanks mid-flight, depending on the design of the waste interlocks, especially assuming the controls are inside the cockpit or cabin. As the TV show MythBusters has shown, a leaky septic disposal system can unintentionally lose liquid waste and cause a "blue ice" sighting on the ground.
  • Many bird species prey on insects and similar-sized animals. Planes often fly into and kill insects (as well as birds), but this is unintentional and doesn't provide them with nutritional value. Superman is not known for eating insects, but Randall implies that he does sometimes, but only when he's bored.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
Bird Plane Superman
Carries people
Often flies in groups
Created in 20th century
Uses magnetic navigation
Enthusiast community obsesses over small coloration details
Preyed on by cats
Occasional mid-air sex
Eaten during seasonal feasts
Propelled by flapping
Sometimes loses ability to fly, needs to sunbathe to regain it
Can take a punch
Mating behaviour often observed by a hidden David Attenborough Not that we know of
Capable of intentionally releasing poop mid-flight
Chases and eats bugs Only when bored

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The explanation says that "birds evolved from dinosaurs". But birds **are** dinosaurs -- 05:40, 31 January 2017 (UTC)


Randall missed that a plane can lose it's ability to fly via excessive icing on surfaces. While it is not usually the way in which it is cured (using deicing solution and onboard aircraft systems to melt them,) sunbathing the plane in greater than freezing temperatures is an excellent way to regain the ability to fly. (And without additional energy cost, too!) 17:58, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Now that we have solar planes, some planes may occasionally require a sunbath to get airborne again. 21:51, 30 January 2017 (UTC)


Perhaps we should mention the pre-twentieth century attempts at powered flight some of which were powered by flapping.

Also should we mention that a hta craft pwered by flapping would be an ornithopter.

Mating & Peeping David

Given their is only one David Attenborough and he does not spend his entire life making wildlife documentaries the chance of his observing any individual bird copulation is remarkably small. 19:28, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

What sort of birds mate in mid flight? -- 19:47, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Swifts for example. --DaB. (talk) 21:37, 30 January 2017 (UTC)
You seem to be right about swifts mating in mid flight. According to | this source, the common swift (Apus apus) is the only species who engages in this behavior.-- 14:59, 1 February 2017 (UTC)
mid flight poop

From what I understand, superman gets the majority of his energy from the sun. Is there any confirmation that he can poop mid flight, or even poop at all? Maybe he just slowly releases various gasses?-- 22:47, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Well Superman does eat, so it is likely he does poop too. Sun gives him super power thing, but he frequents restaurants as Clark Kent. --Trimutius (talk) 04:00, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Planes are definitely capable of releasing their poop intentionally. They choose not to. Truth Rating: Pants On Fire. 14:47, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

It depends what you mean by 'plane poop'. Is it engines exhaust? Fuel, hydraulic oil or other technical fluids? Or is it passengers' poop... If you mean the latter than no, there's no "empty toilet in mid flight" functionality. A malfunction may cause the toilet contents to spill over but it is not intentional. -- Malgond (talk) 11:39, 1 February 2017 (UTC)

The Indian government thinks planes do intentionally release their poop. Citation: [1] -- 21:48, 2 February 2017 (UTC) User:Scryer

There were several aircraft in the early days of flight that had toilets that were directly connected outside. One such one, the Supermarine Stranraer, got the nickname "whistling shithouse" because when the toilet seat was lifted, the airflow through the tube caused it to whistle. Also, during WW2 on bomber aircraft, they would sometimes crap in a cardboard box and throw it overboard rather than use the difficult to use and unpopular chemical toilets. 06:59, 7 February 2017 (UTC)

I was under the impression that birds either do not have sphincters, or do but can't control them to hold their poop in. Would this not mean that birds should not be ticked, or am I completely wrong? 06:35, 1 February 2017 (UTC)


No need to go to ostriches or emus, swans can fly well, and certainly take a punch, though i would *strongly* recommend against trying. [2]. Geese are also probably not much safer. -- 12:27, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Title text

I've never seen such a sticker with a spider web - unless on Helloween. But stickers depicting silhouettes of birds on the other hand: https://www.google.com/search?q=vogel+aufkleber&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjj64Xlv-zRAhXGtxQKHS3ABh0QsAQIgwE&biw=1920&bih=914 But it seems as if this is a regional (Germany - or maybe Europe) thing, since searching for "bird stickers" didn't yield such a clear result... Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 13:22, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Magnetic navigation

There is no evidence that Superman is not able to fly in Magnetic navigation mode... 17:33, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

There is no evidence that Superman exists. -- 15:00, 1 February 2017 (UTC)
Other Comparisons

Missing: Frog and Underdog. Underdog would be a disappointing subset of Superman, Frog a subset of Bird. Schnitz (talk) 20:09, 1 February 2017 (UTC)

This page has quite a few typos and instances of awkward phrasing. I'll go through it and clean it up in a bit.
--Sensorfire (talk) 01:03, 19 August 2018 (UTC)