PORTLAND — A United Continental Airlines flight returned to Portland International Jetport this afternoon after hitting a bird shortly after take-off, but following an inspection, was able to take off again.

Flight 5864, bound for Washington, D.C., was diverted back to Portland after the pilot reported striking a bird. The bird strike appears to have occurred at about 2:30 p.m. just as the plane was taking off,  said Airport Director Paul Bradbury. A flock of small birds flew in front of the plane, prompting the pilot to return to the jetport, Bradbury said.

The plane, which was scheduled to leave at 2:15 p.m., was delayed a little more than an hour and left at 3:37 p.m. The aircraft, which has 50 seats, had about 40 people on board.

Bradbury said bird strikes happen more often than the general public might be aware, and airports take steps – including firing noise cannons and screeching guns – to scare away birds that congregate on the wide open greens around the airport tarmac.

Migrating geese can be a nuisance and a hazard at this time of year, but these birds were much smaller, which is probably why there was no damage, Bradbury said.

On Jan. 15, 2009, a collision between a US Airways flight and a flock of geese near LaGuardia Airport knocked out both engines leading to the “Miracle on the Hudson” when the pilot landed the jet safely on the Hudson River.