A motorcyclist died instantly after a pheasant smashed into his helmet and fractured the base of his skull, an inquest heard.
Father-of-four Robert Neil Patterson was killed on the A470 near Dinas Mawddwy, Gwynedd on Sunday, November 12 last year.
The 51-year-old from Llandudno Junction was with friends Andrew Edwards and David Roberts and they were making their way home after a weekend in Brecon.
Mr Edwards said they were riding along the stretch of road rising up from Dinas Mawddwy when “something appeared to hit” his friend.
He said: “He instantly collapsed on to the bike and veered off the road.” Mr Edwards estimated they were travelling at speeds of 55mph to 65mph.
He said: “It looked like a bird of prey but we believe it was a pheasant. It swooped down above head height. The instant it hit him, he went around to the right; down a bank and into the fields and into trees.
“We were on intercomms. It went silent the instant he was hit.”
Mr Roberts was travelling behind Mr Patterson when the accident happened.
“All I saw was a plume of feathers. I didn’t know what had happened. I didn’t see it come from the side or top,” he told the hearing in Caernarfon.
North West Wales senior coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones said tests showed that Mr Patterson had no drugs or alcohol in his body and that his bike had no defects.
Mr Jones said photographs showed the bird had smashed into Mr Patterson’s visor and damaged his helmet with the impact.
Pathologist Dr Mark Lord said the pheasant weighed between five and six pounds and that Mr Patterson had suffered multiple injuries including a blow to the head and facial injuries, as well as the skull fracture: “It was a significant impact. It was instant death,” Dr Lord added.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Jones said: “It must have been quite a shock to have this bird flying and hitting him in his face.
“The pheasant must have gone into the visor. My belief is that the impact caused the head to go back and fracture the base of the skull. The bike carried on through the undergrowth and further injuries were caused.”
Mr Patterson, who ran his own window-cleaning business, leaves behind his partner Lizzie Day and children aged 28, 24, 15 and seven.
Speaking previously on behalf of the family, his niece Sonia Jones said: “Rob always had a smile on his face, he was never down.
“He was one of those cheerful, happy-go-lucky type of people. His big passion was motorbikes, he’d just returned from a trip to Italy where he went with his friends on the bikes.
“Rob was a very experienced rider, he raced in events across the UK and would go to the TT races every year.”
Mrs Jones said her uncle was “the most brilliant father and a very proud one”, adding: “Everybody is devastated and none of us can quite believe he’s gone.”