Several birds killed by flying into power lines every year

Louth County Council raises threat to welfare of birds posed by wires and bridges

Swans are most likely to hit overhead wires because the position of their eyes on the side of their heads leaves them with poor frontal vision according to BirdWatch Ireland’s Niall Hatch. Photograph: Colum Clarke/Birdwatch Ireland

Swans are most likely to hit overhead wires because the position of their eyes on the side of their heads leaves them with poor frontal vision according to BirdWatch Ireland’s Niall Hatch. Photograph: Colum Clarke/Birdwatch Ireland

 

The number of birds killed or injured by electricity wires is far higher than people realise, BirdWatch Ireland has warned.

Niall Hatch, of BirdWatch swans and large birds of prey are the species most likely to be killed by power cables due to their weight and momentum in flight.

Swans which can weigh up to 20kg often suffer broken necks or damaged wings after striking power cables.

Mr Hatch said awareness of the rate of incidents was low as it was only when the incidents were witnessed or led to power cuts that authorities were notified.

Electrocution is another threat more common for larger birds as they are able to touch two wires or a wire and a support post simultaneously.

Mr Hatch said smaller birds tend to hit a single wire and bump off.

He said swans are most likely to hit overhead wires because the position of their eyes on the side of their heads leaves them with poor frontal vision.

Swans tend to fly close to the ground and follow the path of a river or canal below rather than focusing on what lies ahead.

“They’re not expecting obstacles stretching straight across in front of them. It’s not in their thinking,” Mr Hatch said.

This week Louth County Council discussed the issue after a high number of cases of swans flying into bridges and cables in Drogheda.

Every year an average of 15 cases of birds flying into ESB cables, bridges and other structures in this area are reported.

Such constructions are also an issue in habitats where ground nesting birds were previously safe due to the lack of overhead perching spots for predators.

Curlews, which are highly endangered in Ireland, nest in open, boggy fields where birds of prey have no trees from which to watch them.

BirdWatch Ireland has called for changes to this dynamic to be taken into account when erecting any electricity poles.

Over the past two years BirdWatch has run awareness workshops for local authorities and firms engaged in wind farm projects across the country.

“It’s all about keeping people informed and recognising threats before construction so that proper planning can be made.”

BirdWatch also warned on Thursday that hedge cutting is not permitted until September 1st after the Dáil failed to agreed proposed changes to the dates.