Transmission Lines and Birds

Properly sited transmission lines can be safer for birds and are part of a responsible renewable energy future.

Transmission lines are a critical to delivering energy from renewable sources to consumers. Because the nationwide network of power lines is so vast, millions of birds are killed each year in collisions – much more than from wind turbines. Audubon strongly supports that these transmission lines be responsibly sited and managed.

What risk do power lines pose to birds?

The problem stems from the fact that most electric lines are built around the average bird flight level, but are hard for birds to see. Raptors are especially at risk because their large wing span can bridge between components of the power line, resulting in electrocutions. Not only do power line collisions and electrocutions cause bird deaths, they can also cause power outages, which can especially put a strain on our most vulnerable populations.  Power lines can also cause harm when they cut across particularly sensitive habitat, or through an important migratory pathway or stopover site.

How does Audubon engage in this issue?

  • Audubon advocates for putting renewable energy projects close to consumers in order to minimize the length of power lines.
  • Audubon advocates for underground high-voltage lines to eliminate impacts to birds, whenever feasible. This also protects power lines from storms and wildfires.
  • Audubon is a stakeholder in planning processes, especially on public lands, to site lines in areas that pose the lowest risks to birds and their habitat.
  • Audubon supports recommendations from the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) to reduce mortality, including marking power lines, managing surrounding lands, changing the size or configuration of wires to prevent electrocutions, and burying lines when practical. Audubon co-founded APLIC in 1989 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Audubon supports research on avian interactions with transmission lines. Most recently, Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary—where hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes winter and occasional Whooping Cranes stopover in migration—was the site of an experiment in lighting transmission lines with quasi-ultraviolet light when weather or low light made the lines less visible to cranes. This resulted in a 98% reduction in collisions of cranes with the transmission lines and a path forward to potentially minimizing impacts on this species elsewhere.
  • Audubon is a forceful advocate for enforcement of existing protective laws, like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). We are opposed to any interpretation of the MBTA that would remove penalties for incidental take, including from collisions with transmission lines.

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