Bird behavior and mortality in relation to power lines in prairie habitats

Technical Report 7




Research was conducted to determine the magnitude of avian mortality caused by power transmission lines in prairie habitats during the two spring and two fall migration periods between July 1980 and May 1982. Searches for dead birds were made at least twice weekly during each migration period. Study sites were selected to include 'worst-case' situations involving potentially large concentrations of birds.In total, 633 dead birds were found beneath 9.6 km of power lines. About 81% of the birds were found during fall migration. Removal of birds by scavengers was of minor, although local, importance, and observer error in finding birds was greatest in areas of dense vegetation. Total kill was estimated at 1,332 birds.Data were gathered on more than 7,000 bird flights observed in the vicinity of the power lines. Sixty-eight percent of the birds did not respond to the presence of the power lines. Flaring and climbing over the conductor or overhead ground wire occurred in about 25% of the flights. One hundred nine birds in 82 flocks were observed to collide with a power line. Of these birds, 87% flared to climb over the power line before colliding. The overhead ground wire was responsible for most deaths, as 102 of 109 birds collided with it.Whereas none of the mortality observed was considered to be biologically significant at the particular sites examined, the cumulative effect of mortality sustained from collisions with power lines may be important, particularly to populations of rare or endangered birds.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Federal Government Series
Bird behavior and mortality in relation to power lines in prairie habitats
Series title:
Technical Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Publisher location:
Washington, DC
Contributing office(s):
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center