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Bird wingspan versus space between power lines

Power lines that have been implemented without safety measures are causing multiple bird mortalities from different species. According to a source, a study conducted by the Ministry of Ecological Transition estimates that 33,000 birds per year die in Spain.


Mortality rate per bird specie due to electrocution
Mortality rate per bird specie due to electrocution. Source: Alex Mascarell Llosa
Why do birds get electrocuted?

Normally, birds can safely sit on power lines, some even settle their nests on transmission towers and even on top of electrical poles. However, when a bird spreads its wings and they make contact on both lines, they create an electrical pathway, create a power outage and that can easily put a city in complete darkness. When birds fly at low altitude, it can also lead to collisions and create power issues.


The minimum distance between power lines ranges from 0.75 meters to 6 meters depending on the voltage level of the system. Average wingspan of bird species with higher mortality rate ranges from 1 meter to 2.8 meters. Top bird species with the highest number of mortality rates are typically having wingspan enough to bridge two power lines.


This graphic shows the Bird wingspan versus space between power lines

Reason why birds get electrocuted
Reason why birds get electrocuted

Top 7 birds with the most number of deaths by electrocution


1. Electrocuted Storks

White storks (Ciconia ciconia) are known for its white feathers, black wing, long red bill and long red legs. Considered as one of Europe’s largest birds standing at 95 to 110 centimeters tall and has a wingspan of around 155 to 213 centimeter wide. They are long-distance migratory birds which imposed danger caused by unguarded power lines. It's very common for storks to get electrocuted on electrical poles and transmission lines.


White stork
White stork


2. Electrocuted Vultures

The Eurasian griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) is an old world vulture with massive wingspan ranging from 230 to 280 centimeters wide. A huge tricolored vulture with very white head and neck, pale brown body and dark flight feathers.


There were reported electrocution incidents of griffon vultures across Europe due to poor insulation of medium-tension electricity pylons. Due to its size, it's very common for vultures to get electrocuted on transmission and distribution lines.

Eurasian griffon vulture
Eurasian griffon vulture

3. Electrocuted Buzzards

The Common buzzard (Buteo buteo) is the most common raptor in Europe with an estimated population for about millions. Common buzzards are typically round headed with a slender bill, long wings for about 110 to 140 centimeter wide, and fairly short tail. A specie of buzzard in Kenya have recorded a significant decline in numbers due to electrocution and impact with electrical structures. Buzzards can easily get electrocuted on mid-voltage lines.


Common buzzard
Common buzzard

4. Electrocuted owls

The Largest and most powerful owl specie in the world, is called Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo). It's known for its orange eyes, ear tufts and color distinguish based on the geographic region situated. Massive wingspan could range from 1.5 to 2 meters, wide enough to bridge two lines of electricity causing its death and power outages.

Owl with risk of electrocution
Eurasian eagle-owl

5. Electrocuted Raven


Known for its all-black color, ravens have been subjects to different mythology, folklore and superstitious beliefs (bad luck). Common raven's scientific name is Corvus corax and although is one of the smallest among the list, with a wingspan of 100 to 150 centimeters, A study conducted in 1999 shows that during a road survey, buzzards and ravens were the most frequently electrocuted on electrical poles for about 60.3% of the bird species recorded.

Raven and electrocution risk
Raven and electrocution risk


6. Electrocuted snake eagle


Short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) is a large type of snake eagle with a span of 162 to 195 meters. They can be easily identified by its yellow eyes, and overall greyish brown in color with a white underside. When not in flight, these snake eagle perches on top of tall trees and electric poles. Aside from shooting and habitat loss, collision and electrocution to power lines have been a cause of its mortality.

Short-toed snake eagle
Short-toed snake eagle


7. Electocuted Hawk

It's very common for a type of hawk called Northern goshawk (Accipeter gentilis) to bridge on electical network. It has a distinctive white to greyish thi


ck group of feathers, broad wings and a long rudder-like tail. This is the smallest bird among the list with a wing span of 98 to 104 centimeters and still enough to spread on between power lines. Northern goshawk believed to have a lifespan of at least 11 years, well in fact the oldest known northern goshawk was at least 17 years old when it was found. Their life is threatened by unprotected electrical lines.


Northern goshawk

How to avoid bird electrocution?


Electrical lines and infrastructures with inadequate design and insulation are one of the threats that these creatures are facing on a daily basis. As a mitigation measures on the arising issues on avian electrocution, electrical distribution and transmission departments from different countries are adapting to the application of wildlife and asset protection covers. The best animal outage protective covers are made out of silicone.


Midsun IKM, based in Austria, specializes in distributing over 100 wildlife outage protection products. These are ready-made products for power companies, electrical substations, transmission, and distribution lines to show its commitment to protect power companies and mitigate risk to wildlife at any season. These products provide additional protection which helps these migratory birds to safely travel to different location.


Reference:

Animal Diversity Web. Ciconia ciconia European White Stork. https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Ciconia_ciconia/

Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia. Eurasian griffon vulture https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_griffon_vulture

Vulture Conservation Foundation (2021). Electrocuted Griffon Vulture causes wildfire in Spain: dangerous pylons are a real problem for wildlife. https://4vultures.org/blog/electrocuted-griffon-vulture-causes-wildfire-in-spain-dangerous-pylons-are-a-real-problem-for-wildlife/

Karisia Walking Safaris (2022). Cement Power Poles and Electrocution of Birds of Prey in Kenya. https://www.karisia.com/about-karisia/karisia-blog/2022/4/6/cement-power-poles-and-electrocution-of-birds-of-prey-in-kenya

Animal Diversity Web. Bubo bubo European eagle-owl. https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Bubo_bubo/

Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia. Common raven. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_raven

Biological Conservation (2000). Janss, G. F. E. Avian mortality from power lines: a morphologic approach of a species-speci®c mortality http://www.atclave.es/publicaciones/descargas/pub_avifauna/47_avian_mortality.pdf

Animal Diversity Web. Accipiter gentilis northern goshawk. https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Accipiter_gentilis/

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