Power Line Safety for Hungary’s Hawks

i-fcb71851b4c1f9ba779a9e84947bf042-powerlinehawk.jpgPower lines kill raptors. Tens of thousands of raptors a year die on power lines. But there are ways to avoid this.

On 26 February, the Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society (MME; BirdLife in Hungary) signed an agreement with the Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW), and all relevant electric companies in Hungary, to provide a long-term solution for bird-electrocutions. The signing parties promised to transform power lines in Hungary, and to make them more ‘bird-friendly’ by 2020.Since the 1980s, electrocutions and collisions with electric power lines have caused the death of thousands of protected birds in Hungary and other European countries. The real extent of the problem, and the approximate number of affected birds, were not clear until MME started to systematically gather data on electrocuted birds in 2004.To date, five national surveys of power lines have been completed by 150 volunteers and national park employees. They covered all important bird habitats in Hungary.In total, 2,183 carcasses of electrocuted birds were found underneath 19,216 electric poles. Based on these findings, MME estimated that at least 30,000 birds (especially Raptors and Corvids) are killed annually.”Electrocution is one of the most Significant causes of death for several globally threatened raptor species, such as Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, Saker Falcon Falco cherrug and Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus” said Márton Horváth (MME).Another serious problem concerning electric power lines is birds colliding with the wires. These incidents affect mainly large migratory species such as cranes and geese, as well as the Vulnerable Great Bustard Otis tarda.

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7 thoughts on “Power Line Safety for Hungary’s Hawks

  1. How are they electrocuted? What grounds them?We have residential lines in our backyard servitude that birds land on without being fried, and the lines aren’t jacketed.I am quite curious.

  2. If I recall, don’t birds in general have some sort of magnetic sense? If so the high current AC going down those lines has to be throwing some serious magnetic energy. That would mess with a navigation system.Oh wait, that’s UFO’s.Seriously though I never understood why we don’t bury power lines everywhere. It makes no sense to string aerial cable anymore.

  3. Jeb, they are electrocuted when they complete a circuit between two conductors. You are correct that for normal distribution lines there is no risk from perching on a single line. The problem comes about when they touch two lines at once, e.g. with a wingtip while taking off or landing.Solutions involve guarding areas where that can happen. (I learned all this from Google and friends just now, but it matches what I assumed was the answer.)A back of the envelope calculation I once did suggests that a large bird might have enough capacitance that perching on a single high-voltage (500kV or more) cross-country line would give it a nasty shock, maybe even enough to kill it. I have since noticed that I never see birds perching on cross-country lines (except on the ground wires at the top), so I suspect I’m right.

  4. Mr Vector is correct. Tony, underground cables are far more expensive to install and maintain. Also they are more vulnerable to lightning strikes and corrosion. I spent several years replacing underground power cables that were supposed to last 50 years but began to fail in 15.

  5. I worked on an Army Corps of Engineers project which involved high tension lines in an area with high seasonal populations of bald eagles. We found a paper with measurements of eagle dimensions. We took this to the engineers and they designed power poles such that an eagle could not touch two hot spots at the same time. There were also things which would be put on the power lines to make them more visible.A Venezuelan friend told me of a problem with monkeys getting electrocuted. I gave him a copy of the eagle-friendly design study, but never heard any more about it.

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