Power Lines and Electrocutions

The Problem

Our research team has discovered that power lines are cause for millions of bird deaths each year.  These deaths are caused by either direct collision with the lines, which can be nearly invisible in poor weather conditions, or electrocutions due to the bird’s large wing span bridging the gap between two lines or a line and a pole.

The Solution

Since a single bird electrocution can cause power outages for thousands of customers at a time, power companies have been increasingly compliant in implementing solutions to the electrocution problem.  In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act became a United States federal law and made it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, capture, or kill, even if unintentionally,  migratory birds.  In 1999, the Moon Lake Electric Association of Colorado was forced to pay $100,000 in fines after being found guilty to violating this act, as their electric lines had killed thousands of birds.  Many other associations and power companies around the country took action to fit their lines with bird-safety devices after this incident.

Furthermore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has produced a short video entitled, “Raptors at Risk,” explaining the electrocution problem and has distributed it to power companies around the country.  The video includes information on fitting existing power lines with bird-safety measures, including visual markers, insulating sheaths, and wider separation between lines.

Dominion Virginia Power, our local power company, has implemented a strategic undergrounding program, due to begin in 2016.  Although not directly related to decreasing bird mortality, Dominion will install new underground equipment, replacing 4,000 miles of overhead lines, and saving millions of birds.

Post by Allison Jaros


Janss, Guyonne F. “Avian Mortality from Power Lines: A Morphologic Approach of a Species-Specific Mortality.” Department of Applied Biology: 5-12. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

“Power Line Collisions and Electrocutions.” Power Line Collisions and Electrocutions. American Bird Conservation, 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

“Strategic Underground Program.” Strategic Underground Program. Dominion, 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

“Strategic Undergrown July 2014.” YouTube. DomCorpComm, 2 July 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.