Birds and Power Lines

AEP’s is taking proactive steps to prevent bird collision with power lines by implementing the best protection practices.

The most common reasons birds collide with power lines include:

  • Biology - the topography, vegetation, migration, breeding, prey availability and other behavioral or biological influences that attract birds to power lines, poles, towers and substations.
  • Engineering - the clearance between energized parts or between energized and grounded hardware on a pole may not be sufficient to discourage bird contact, providing an opportunity for the bird to be electrocuted, often resulting in a power outage.

When nests are discovered on electrical equipment, the nest is moved to prevent harm to the bird and ensure system reliability. To properly deal with birds and nests on electrical equipment, permits are often required from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

When a bird collision or electrocution occurs, the utility is required file a report with the USFWS. AEP trains field personnel on the proper way to report bird deaths and to recognize and report instances where proactive mitigation action can be taken.

AEP’s Avian Protection Plan

While AEP tracks bird interactions with facilities across its system, the company’s primary focus is on larger birds such as hawks, eagles, owls, osprey and wading birds (e.g. herons), as well as smaller birds that nest on equipment or perch in large flocks. These species run a greater risk of colliding with towers and lines.

The AEP Avian Protection Plan includes:

  • Employee education and training to comply with all federal and state laws.
  • Construction design standards to highlight bird safety.
  • Nest management and avian enhancement options for bird safety, such as installing a dummy pole for nesting or diverters to keep birds away from wires.
  • Avian reporting systems and risk assessment methodologies with updated tracking system to improve monitoring and reporting capabilities to allow for a more proactive response.
  • Public education to promote the need for migratory bird and habitat conservation, increase cooperation with federal and state agencies and non-profit organizations.

Collaboration for Avian Protection

For more than three decades, the utility industry, conservation groups and wildlife resource agencies have collaborated to study and understand the reasons birds are attracted to utility equipment.

To conserve native North American species of birds and reduce avian contacts, utilities have adopted voluntary company-specific Avian Protection Plans.

In 2013, AEP completed its voluntary plan. AEP also participates in the industry’s Avian Power Line Interaction Committee and is adopting its suggested practices.