One of the reasons why power outages occur is due to bird migration. During a certain season, birds migrate to move from areas of low or decreasing resources to areas of high or increasing resources. Some species are short-distance migrants that see power lines and transformers a perfect fit, as it protects them from preys, they can have better views for hunting, and gives them warmth. But their habitation in these areas brings power interruptions and causes damage to the power lines which is a very big inconvenience.
WHY DO BIRDS TRAVEL?
Birds travel or migrate for two reasons: food and reproduction. The decrease in food supply due to season’s change forces the animals to look for another place they can find food or to seek enough food supply for the coming seasons (i.e. traveling south then it’s winter in the north hemisphere). During breeding season birds fly to a specific location with warm temperature to raise their young; but some birds that don't migrate, will try to find some warm spots nearby to nest and that is generally near power lines, transformers and other electrical assets. They also like high power lines as they are not only warm, but also far from ground prey, which is a perfect spot to help raise their young.
WHEN DO BIRDS MIGRATE?
Migration can be a cause from the changes in day length, lower temperatures, changes in food supplies, and genetic predisposition. Each species migrates at a certain time of year and time of day – some of them are called daytime and nighttime migrators. The former type of migrator, often cruises their flight during the warm air of daytime to help them lift higher in the sky. Night time migrators, are somehow resting and eating during the day time and take their flight during the night time utilizing the stillness of air and a lower temperature. Thousands of miles are covered by these migrating species, and often took the same route annually with a very little deviation. Changes in daylength and temperature often contribute to avian travel since they often use the sun, the stars, and by sensing the earth’s magnetic field as their sensory compass.
Range maps are made available by eBird where bird distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends are documented through data collection by any individual who went birding. It comes with a mobile app where an individual can collect data offline any where in the world.
BIRDS AND POWER OUTAGES
When these migratory birds cruise their long seasonal flights, it represents a major threat because they have to make their way through lots of power grid lines and often result in collisions and electrocutions. Electrocution often happens in areas with lesser vegetation in which migratory birds tend to use power lines as resting places. Birds can safely sit on power lines as long as it doesn’t have contact with the ground, but 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.
A few months ago, an incident in Spain brought our attention when 30 carcasses of storks were found at the location of the medium voltage lines. These migrating storks took their flight traversing from northern Europe to southern Europe. The volume of migrating storks caused them to have contact on the medium voltage lines which led to a massive electrocution of 30 innocent storks.
Video source: https://twitter.com/Jordisolerramio/status/1554026086748622848
HOW TO PREVENT BIRD ELECTROCUTIONS?
As 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. 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.
BirdsFlight (2022). Why do birds migrate – Bird Migration Facts. https://birdsflight.com/bird-migration-facts/
Hannah of Planture Magazine. Bird migration: why do birds migrate? https://energized.edison.com/stories/why-can-birds-sit-safely-on-power-lines
eBird range maps https://science.ebird.org/en/status-and-trends/species/whisto1/abundance-map-weekly?week=13
The Cornell Lab (2021) The Basics of Bird Migration:How, Why and Where. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/the-basics-how-why-and-where-of-bird-migration/