Electrocution is a big threat to many bird species around the world. In plain English, it occurs when the bird encounters the High Voltage network, either because it’s building its new home there (nesting) or because it wanted to rest on the power lines its tired wings for a bit.
Not only does this hurt wildlife, but it can also provoke outages or flashovers in our utility. Therefore, it is in our best interest to avoid said breakdowns and our responsibility for wildlife and asset protection.
On our daily life, we see birds sitting on power lines and they don’t get electrocuted. So, when does this phenomenon take place? Usually, the birds are not touching the ground or anything that is in contact with the ground, this leads to the electricity staying where it belongs, in the power line. The problem occurs when a large bird touches a power line while touching a power pole or a tree at the same time, because they are connected to the ground it gives electricity and the bird could be electrocuted. But the ground is not the only factor, if a bird also touches two wires at once, a circuit is created and once again the bird could be electrocuted.
Which bird species are vulnerable?
All birds can be victims of an electrocution, although this is mostly a problem with big birds. Since the issues mentioned before are highly likely to happen because of their large wings.
The European Commission explains that larger and broad winged raptors, storks and pelicans are referred as ‘soaring birds’ because they can’t maintain active flapping flight over long distances. These species usually depend on rising hot air over the dry land, which means they avoid seas and high mountains. Because they use this passive flight method to save energy, they are extremely vulnerable to dangers, especially at the bottleneck sites. The EC also categorizes two broad types of threats common for many species in this category:
· Habitat changes at stopover sites, where birds need to store energy before crossing ecological barriers, can limit the available prey or safe roosting places, thus reducing the fitness and survival of soaring birds during this challenging journey.
· For all soaring birds the collision with aerial structures, such as power-lines and wind turbines, represents a significant threat when these structures are badly located. While some species can cope with the impacts of these threats, others are already threatened by other factors and this additional mortality can bring them over a tipping point.
Once the bird has gone through the electric -and painful- event, the best scenario (can we call it best scenario?) is for it to die. Because if it doesn’t, the chances of it being able to fly again are very low, the bigger chance is for it to lie incapacitated on the ground -or somewhere on the electrical utility, depending on where it lands- and suffer a slow death.
Science Daily talks about how big of a threat this is for different species, for example:
In Catalonia, electrocution is the primary cause of death of the Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata), and across the rest of the Iberian Peninsula it affects particularly large numbers of the endangered Iberian Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti) and many other ecologically valuable species. In the United States, the problem has a particular impact on the highly symbolic Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). In Africa, common victims include the Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) and the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus).
How do we avoid it?
The best solution to ensure the protection of the animals and the power lines is to insulate the bare conductor and its connections and create an environment that is safe for wildlife.
Midsun E/Products are over 100 different systems of silicone tubes, tapes, sheets, preformed covers, and barriers that provide a proven, cost-effective, and easy-to-install solution. Not only do they protect the wildlife from electrocuting, but it also ensures tracking resistance, thermal endurance, and UV resistance throughout their service life.
Midsun has the special commitment to help utilities find solutions to these common challenges, as well as protecting the environment. For any consultation don’t hesitate to contact us.
 Directorate-General for Environment, “Conservation and Recovery of Threatened Birds in the European Union”, European Commission, November 2011.  Universidad de Barcelona, “Electrocution of birds and collision with power lines: Solutions to a global problem”, Science News, December 2020.