My New Book


Birds and Electrocution

Well I had two very interesting things hit my inbox that are somewhat related. One is kind of a gruesome photo but fascinating:

Electrocuted Hawk and Squirrel

The above photo was taken by Lili Taylor (woman after my own heart, she takes pictures of dead stuff). In the photo, we have a dead squirrel and a dead raptor on top of a transformer. Based on the tail feathers, it looks to be a hatch year red-tailed hawk. It’s a shame, the bird graduated from the nest, figured out how to hunt down tough quarry like a gray squirrel and then landed to eat it only to be electrocuted on a transformer.

I also got a notification that he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee have released their updated guidance document Reducing Avian Collisions with Power Lines: State of the Art in 2012. This manual is supposed to identify “best practices and provides specific guidance to help electric utilities and cooperatives, federal power administrations, wildlife agencies, and other stakeholders reduce bird collisions.”
So it seems there are things that can be done to prevent this and it’s up to the power company to take that initiative to make adjustments. I think in this case of the hawk on the transformer that you could try and call the power company to alert them so they could at least remove it and encourage them to maybe put a cover over it to prevent further electrocutions.

It’s fascinating to follow some of those links. The APLIC offers workshops on this subject and you can even download a copy of an Avian Protection Plan (a working document that states with the risks are to birds and how to mitigate that). On page 30 it gets into construction guidelines.

Screen shot 2013-01-01 at 11.42.40 PM

The document points out what the risk is to a bird landing on the transformer but also points out way that could fix it easily:

Screen shot 2013-01-01 at 11.45.36 PM

The hard part is tracking down the power company responsible for the transformer and getting them to come out and fix it. It’s in their best interest to do so, they could be fined or something like this could lead to a costly power outage.


5 comments to Birds and Electrocution

  • Just by coincidence, the power company made these changes in our neigbhorhood just last month. Guy knocked on the door and said our electricity would be out for about 15 minutes while they made the change. Since I work at home, it meant a nice break. It actually only took about five minutes. My sense is that they didn’t do it just to be nice to birds and squirrels. Apart from storms, the biggest cause of outages around here is what I’ve heard the linemen call “squirrel suicides.” We also have slippery metal or vinyl bear-and-squirrel barriers on most poles, but the squirrels still hop from tree branches and trot in on the wires. And the birds, of course, can fly.

  • Oh, that’s interesting. It makes sense that squirrels would be a big problem. I suppose a dead squirrel would also attract scavengers too.

  • I have seen a pigeon die quick once when landing on a telephone wire. Have heard these lines also kill golden eagles in northern california. Wish the lines were safer for birds.