Bird Deterrents Installed on Electrical Wires to Prevent Bird Strikes

Aug 21, 2015
Photo by: Pat Johnson A great blue heron died on South Green Street this spring, possibly after impact with electrical wires.

A dead great blue heron found beneath electric wires on South Green Street in Tuckerton has at least made for a better ending for future birds, as Atlantic City Electric has installed a series of avian diverter reflective strips along the wires that are close to the wetlands.

This spring, a Tuckerton Beach resident reported finding the dead heron to Ben Wurst, biologist with the New Jersey Conserve Wildlife Foundation. She also reported seeing other dead herons through the years in the same general spot. Wurst then contacted Cristina Frank, the wildlife biologist with Pepco Holdings, parent company of Atlantic City Electric. Frank runs the Avian Protection Program across the entire service territory, including southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Early this summer, linesmen started to install avian diverter strips with a reflective surface that can be seen by birds at dawn and dusk when large birds, such as herons, are apt to be flying between their roosting spots and hunting spots on the marsh.

“The diverters are installed on lower voltage lines where bird collision is an issue. We also mark transmission lines that cross water bodies, rivers, marshes or other habitats that may be bisected by our lines,” said Frank. “We utilize a variety of additional strategies to address bird electrocution risk including designing lines/configurations to accommodate birds safely, installing cover-up equipment on energized components, and relocating nests from utility poles to nesting platforms. We often work very closely with biologists like Ben.”

Frank said larger birds like blue herons are more apt to strike lines because they are not able to maneuver as quickly when they see obstructions, as are smaller birds or raptors. Fog conditions may add to the problems.

Great Bay Boulevard in Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor is also being studied for the avian bird diverters that are made by Powerline Sentry. “That road is about 3 miles long, so we are prioritizing what areas are the most likely to affect birds.”

Frank said they also like to know how well the diversion strips are working and if there are other areas that need protection. “Ben Wurst is out in the field a lot, so he keeps us informed.”

Wurst runs the osprey program for NJCWF and is frequently checking up on the birds and their nests.

“I try to do what I can to help, especially for any threatened and endangered species,” said Wurst. “The great blue heron is not on those lists yet, but it is a bird of ‘special concern,’ which means their numbers are declining in New Jersey.”

Migratory birds that are not game birds are protected by federal and state laws.

“The company likes to be proactive,” said Frank. “It’s not just to protect wildlife, but also for customer reliability. So it’s a ‘win-win’ for the company and wildlife.”

— Pat Johnson


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